Teaching our kids the value of Good Character

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I’ve been telling my two sons the same message for their entire lives: my goal for them is that they grow up to be strong, kind, solid men of good character. And anything I do or don’t do is in furtherance of that goal.

As a result, both of them (ages 12 & 13) are presently strong, kind, good boys… so far. I’m hardly naïve, and well aware that with the gift of free will, they could one day make destructive decisions which upend all my and my wife’s hard work.

But I wouldn’t bet on that happening.

parenting 544After all, I had great role models. I was blessed with a strict-yet-loving mother and an even stricter father, which in and of itself makes me rather an anomaly today. Their cumulative life lessons (“Finish your homework before you watch Gilligan’s Island”, “Seriously, you call this clean?!”, and “I didn’t make you watch movies until 4:00 this morning. You can nap AFTER we go to church”, etc.,..) were essential in teaching me right from wrong, and being able to separate the frivolous from the worthwhile.

But they also demonstrated kindness: whether it was their willingness to help us kids (even when we had just screwed up), or the respect they showed their parents, or even the way they treated total strangers, my folks taught us the power and importance of decency.

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I will refrain from commenting on the recent antics of Miley Cyrus, a girl who obviously was provided the wrong sort of encouragement somewhere along the line. Nor will I go into the Brobdingnagian list of other child stars who’ve likewise gone off the rails (alcohol, drugs, various acts of abhorrent, destructive behavior), as it would be so long that I’d need a dozen posts to include half of them.

Good Kid 5Rather, I want to celebrate the children about whom you’ve never read, the kids who go through their day somehow not shooting anyone, publicly debasing themselves, or falling into substance abuse.

These young men and women get no headlines, no “up close & personal” biopics. There are more of them than we realize: making informed decisions, learning the value of hard work and integrity, and slowly transforming themselves into mature adults. They become our neighbors, friends and co-workers.

In short, they become the sort of persons we want our sons and daughters to befriend or marry.

Reaffirming our children’s behavior is important, but what sort of behavior we reaffirm is exponentially MORE important. If we only (or even mostly) celebrate their intelligence or singing talent or appearance, they’ll get that message, loud and clear. They’ll learn that honesty is less laudable than getting straight A’s, and being considered beautiful is a worthier pursuit than practicing kindness or humility.

An old boss of mine had a saying that has stuck with me, and I long ago incorporated it into a truism of parenting by replacing “employees” with “children”:

“Your children are listening to everything you say.

They’re also listening to everything you DON’T say.” 

16 responses to “Teaching our kids the value of Good Character

  1. Call me old fashioned but I think children thrive in a well disciplined household. A study was once done at a preschool. On the first day the children were taken outside to play in a yard with no fence. The children huddled close to the building and didn’t do a whole lot during their play time . The next day they were introduced into a yard with a fence surrounding the play area. The children rushed outside eager to play and explore. Why the difference? Because they knew their boundaries…. you see that fence provided them freedom.
    Great post again @justturnright

    • Couldn’t agree more, Slayer.

      There’s plenty of time for freedom as kids mature. But children these days have SO much freedom, SO early, that they often use it before they’ve internalized the other lessons needed to handle that level of freedom.

      BTW: I’m old-fashioned, too.
      And proud of it.

  2. This is so very beautiful… AMEN!! Wonderful post JTR, may God bless and keep you and yours in Christ! 😀

  3. Thanks for not commenting on Miley Cyrus — she doesn’t need more publicity. And thanks for pointing out the greater reality that pop-culture finds too humdrum to notice. There are plenty of good examples for us to look up to, and for many of us, we don’t have to look beyond our own household to find them.

    • I’m betting that there are examples near most people.
      However, we’re so used to the toxic images of rotten/over-sexed/know-it-all/wise-a** kids that we’re force-fed by the movies, commercials, etc.,… sometimes we don’t see the really great kids right in front of us.

      Thanks, James!

  4. Mom always told my brother and me that “character is who you are when no one is looking”.

    JTR….you’ve commented SO many times on the issue of “cultural rot and decay”. IMHO, you can chock up 99.9% of it to the failure of parents to instill the groundwork of good character and morals. Sadly, it’s often the desire for their kids to become “stars” like Miley Cyrus, or pro athletes like A-Rod. The message is clear: do WHATEVER it takes.

    Or….you get moronic statements like the one from the Dad of the kid who was one of the group that beat the 88 year old man to death: “My son is a good kid”…..REALLY? Wow….guess we need to redefine THAT term.

  5. Reblogged this on disturbeddeputy and commented:

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