No matter what our children accomplish, no matter what our children become, no matter what relationship we have with our children the most important thing that all parents seem to want for their children that they become individuals of integrity. Parents desire that their children become children of character and respect. All parents want their children to eventually cherish specific values and beliefs that will make them people of honor who stand true to their word and know who they are.
To help our children make themselves into adults of character there are some values we ourselves must have and beliefs that will help us as we guide our children.
· Of great importance is recognizing that accomplishments are not as important as the effort one puts forth to accomplish. If our children think that we want them to “produce” or “accomplish” much, they may become “task oriented” or they may become individuals who want to “please” us rather then please themselves. It is imperative that our children discover that effort and desire are more important then accomplishment. Children can learn much from trying and failing. Children learn little from success without effort.
· Helping our children learn to do what is of good value is more important then doing things that feel good. Children must learn that a person of true integrity and character does what may not be natural at all. It may be natural to want everything you can get for yourself but people of character will sacrifice and do without so that others may have a better life. We are all aware of individuals who risked their life to protect someone else. We call these people heroes. Being a hero is just another way of expressing integrity and character.
· The cultivation of values is not based on a logical or intellectual thought process. Rather development of values is more of a commitment to certain principles of behavior. When the child sees him or herself as a person of integrity it is because they have committed themselves to a “way of life.” It is not because they thought it through and decided that being a person of integrity is the safest or wisest thing to do. They have decided this is the kind of person they want to be. It is because they value integrity. It is because they value honesty. It is because they value character.
· Do not underestimate the value of tradition or what has been passed on from those who have lived before us. The wisdom of the past can normally be trusted to set a good pattern for the present. Our forefathers understood the value of integrity and character. In the past, Fathers informed their sons leaving home to serve in the armed forces that it was more honorable to come home in a casket then to come home with a dishonorable record. That advice, although seemingly harsh, illustrates how important character and honor were to our ancestors.
· Wise parents recognize the importance of standards or rules. But they also recognize that rules do not assure that a child will develop character. Rules are only needed when the child has not yet developed wisdom or character. Rules are only stepping stones to character and integrity. A person of character needs no rules. A person of character has developed the capacity to do what is appropriate and needed no matter where they find themselves and no matter what the circumstances. They have developed their own set of inner standards that are not “rule based” but that are based on love of life, love of self, and love of God.
· A person of character does not worry about what others think or even about what God thinks. A person of character knows who they are and what they are about. They know and have faith in a God who loves them no matter what they do, and no matter what the circumstances. They do not live to win the approval of God or anyone else. They like who they are and intuitively strive to make the world a better place for themselves and all mankind. They live life in this way, not because they should or because it is their duty, but they live as they do because it is who they are. It is what they want to do. It is what they want to be.
The best way to help your children become individuals of character is to always treat them with respect even when disciplining them. If you respect them they will learn to respect themselves. If you are always kind in your approach to them, even when they are immature or disrespectful of you, they will find it hard to see you as anything other then their friend. When you give them the freedom to befriend you, you give them the freedom to benefit form the love you automatically have for them.
In an atmosphere of love and respect the seed of character can sprout and take root. Once character has take root it is hard to destroy. Once a child can grasp what a powerful and peaceful possession charter is, character seems to take on a life of its own. Once a child or adult has developed a personality of character it seems to be a permanent trait. I have never heard of a person who has become a person of character deciding that this was not for them. Once obtained it is a trait that appears eternal.
Do not become discouraged. Expose your children to your convictions. Let them know that, to you, it is important to be honest, responsible, kind, truthful, and a person of character. Working to help a child become a person of character may be a long and arduous process, but it is worth the effort.