We live in a day and time when it appears that standards are a thing of the past. If a parent attempts to teach their children that standards are necessary for an ordered and meaningful life, the parent is considered unenlightened or judgmental. It seems that as a society we have come to accept the myth that to stand for a specific principle, idea, or philosophy is somehow wrong because there may be someone in the world who thinks differently and we do not want to offend others or imply they are wrong. It appears that the individual who stands for a truth or principle they hold sacred is now considered a bigot, politically motivated, or ridged and unsympathetic of the beliefs others hold.
How then can parents who hold to time held standards of, honesty, morality, religion, and patriotism teach their children the fundamental principles of truth, justice, and righteous living that they themselves have discovered give meaning to life? Let’s be honest. It isn’t easy. To do so a parent must be courageous. A parent must live what they teach. And more than anything else, the parent must be willing to risk the righteous indignation of not only friends and relatives but the criticism of their own children.
I discovered a long time ago that if I accepted the opinions and behavior of my children and just loved them that they in turn loved and cared for me. I was there. I was the good Dad who allowed them to be themselves, to do what they wanted, and who was loved in return. I was not respected but I was loved. I was someone who didn’t really understand the modern world, but was nice to have around.
But, if I indicated that I knew how to live life, could take care of myself, and that I held a standard or belief that they disagreed with, I was judgmental and a poor dad. In fact, my ideas became the things that they felt had handicapped them as they grew. It was my ideas that were then responsible for their suffering and confusion in life.
This was an interesting revelation. If I said the things my immature, self centered, children wanted to hear, I was their hero. If I tried to be myself or help them to a higher level of living, a level that required discipline and living by time tested standards, I was somehow judgmental and uncaring. This was a “No Win” situation. Any time I presented a belief or standard it could be challenged with the statement, “Well others have rights too!” or “How do you know you are right?”
This presented me with a real challenge. Should I be me and express and teach what I had found was important in life or should I sit back and hope that in time, as they grew, they would discover the same truths? Was my relationship with my children more important then the standards that I held true?
In time I decided that Shakespeare got it right when he wrote, “To thine own self be true, and it follows as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Unless I was able to be me I was also unable to be anything for them. I had to be courageous. I had to take positions on issues that were important to me. I had to risk their disapproval and perhaps rejection. I had to be someone they could eventually look to for standards that were unchangeable. The modern world could no longer provide them with standards that were true and unchangeable, but I could.
To do this it was necessary to let my children know what I believed, not what they should believe. It was necessary to let them know that I held standards that were tried and true and unchangeable. Even if they did not believe or agree with me at least they would be aware of standards and principles for reference when they were done wavering in the winds of uncertainty that exist in the world today.
Not only did I have to have faith in the standards and beliefs I held, but I had to have faith in my children that eventually they would come to know those things of most worth and true. My responsibility to them was more than just being a friend; I had to be a father.
I knew that there is truth that can be discovered. I knew that there are standards of right and wrong. I knew that life is more than existence. Life has purpose and there is a perfect plan for growth fabricated by a perfect Planner. Knowing these truths I proceeded to expose my children to what I had discovered.
I decided to let my children know that I have firm beliefs relative to virtue, morality, honesty, fidelity, faith, patriotism, obedience, the nobility of the human race, the sacredness of marriage, the importance of abstinence from smoking and alcohol, the importance of proper eating habits, respect for others of all races and religions, the value of self control, respect for government and laws, the importance of keeping Sunday a special day, respect for their Mother and all women, respect for individuals who are disabled or handicapped, the importance of freedom, etc.
I discovered that my children do not have to agree with me. They do not have to do as I do. But my children must know who I am, what I believe, and how I live. This provided a dilemma for my children. If they decided to love me as I was, beliefs and all, I could be one of their best cheerleaders. If they could not accept me and love me as I was, or if they wanted to change me to a person who accepted the myth existing in the world that truth is a relative and unique to each person, then I had to live without their approval and/or their fellowship. But, that was ok for I had to be true to myself even at the peril of judgment from my children or anyone who wished me to be different. I had decided that I liked who I was and what I stood for. I had graduated from Pal to Dad.