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Parental Responsibility – growing character

April 19, 2012

Is character important in leadership?

I believe that ones character completely defines them in any attempted role.  This applies both to the President of The United States, and to the janitor in the local factory.  One’s character is almost impossible to hide over a long period of time, and, once set, is difficult to change.  For this reason, and others described in a previous post about why morals matter, I believe that we should be watching and crafting the character of our children from a very early age.

How is a persons character formed?

Basically, a persons character or lack thereof is formed by their reactions to experiences and observations growing up.  If a child sees a parent habitually lying or smoking or drinking or speeding, that child is likely to form the same habits.  If a child is able to repeatedly ignore his parents wishes with no consequences, he will likely have trouble with authority as an adult.  If a child see his parents respond to annoyances with rage or blind fury, that child is likely to have anger issues as an adult.  If parents or teachers show constant discrimination based on an individuals color, speech, athleticism, or mental capacity, that child will grow up thinking that it is acceptable to discriminate against others in the same manner.

Note: it is not only a child’s experiences that form character, but their reactions as well.  Parents have the unique responsibility and privilege of choosing many of the circumstances a child will face, and guiding them in finding proper reactions as well.

How can a parent help their child form good character?

First and foremost, be there for your child.  I recently had the privilege of attending a lecture by Frank Abagnail.  While you may not know his name immediately, he was the main character in the story and film called Catch Me if You Can.  He said that the one thing that sent him into five years of check fraud, forgery, and impersonation was the divorce of his parents.  We hear much about entitlement in various spheres of life.  Many people assume that it is their right to have things that they have often taken for granted.  While I don’t often agree with the idea of entitlement, Mr. Abagnail made a statement I liked.  He said,

“Every child is entitled to a Mother and a Father in the home.”

Second, be active in your the life of your child.  Involve yourself in their schooling, their entertainment, their trials, their ups and downs, their hobbies and their daily life.  Be a friend to them.  Many people choose not to be involved with the “petty” trouble of their children in the early years and are astonished to find that their children are strangers when they hit the teenage years.  Don’t let this happen to you.  Cultivate strong friendships and trust early.

Why should a parent care about the character their child is forming?

I believe that one of the greatest dis-services a parent can do for their child is not caring.  Assuming that since they “aren’t hurting anything” everything is ok can cause much trouble in the future.  I mentioned the Frank Abagnail lecture I attended.  Another point he made was that,

We have all heard that life is short.  Life is not short, life is very long.”

He went on to explain that decisions have consequences and you have to live with the consequences of the decisions you make for the rest of your life.  I cannot remember the name of the poll that he quoted, but he said that a very large percentage of companies will deny a persons application for employment based on comments they have made on Facebook!  As parents, we must impress upon our children the importance of careful living.  This is not to say that we restrain them from every opportunity for fun, or even every opportunity to fail.  This does mean that we train them to make right decisions, know and admit when they’ve made a mistake, learn from their mistakes, and keep going.  We train them to treat others the way that they want to be treated, regardless of social or economic status.  We teach them responsibility, both by modelling it and requiring it.  This means we act like caring and responsible…….. parents.

I know that many of these things are easy to talk about and harder to do.  Frankly, the thought of my responsibility to my three boys in forming their character is a frightening one.  I am not even close to being perfect in these areas and I continually strive for improvement.  However, if we work diligently at the job, I believe we can form in our children many of the character traits that we want to see in the leaders of our country.  By doing this we are serving not only ourselves and our families, but our country as well.

Who would have thought that spending time and energy with your children was patriotic?

Thanks for taking the time to meander through my musings,

Dave

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