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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Parenting with character to create character, Part 1, "Conception"

Parenting with character is no easy feat, and for those who have kids, this is no revelation. So how do we go about the using and modeling character to our children in an effort to develop such a noble trait in them? Well, the first step is to remember that raising kids should be fun. But that is way to easy of an answer to this complex and elusive task, isn't it? The development of our children's character begins with us taking a hard look at ourselves. This is where most people quit. Not because they do not care, but because many of us do not like what we see when we look deep inside ourselves.

Terms like "baggage", "Skeletons in the closet" and "issues" come to mind. The unfortunate reality is that many kids are brought into this dance unexpected, unwanted, and uninvited by individuals who were seeking something else. Our emotional choice to engage in a sexual relationship without understanding, or the readiness of taking on the role of a parent is the first foundation stone to predetermining our relationship with our children. We seek such relationships with a vast array of reasons in an attempt to meet one or more needs. But such pursuits of these needs often fall short of the realization of long term consequences and responsibilities. You may be asking what the hell does all this have to do with teaching kids character? The adults who are responsible for the creation of a young life bring a set of beliefs and perceptions with them about the event. It is these beliefs and perceptions that start a chain reaction. The child will emulate these beliefs and perceptions like a sponge absorbing water.

I had a friend who was sexually active in high school. He was always anxious about his girls cycle. If a child had been conceived, what perceptions would the young life have formed about its premature arrival? Do you not think that the child would pick up on the anxious, stressed out attitudes of its parents? Do not get me wrong, there are many very young couples that come together and do great in the face of an unexpected arrival. Now take a child born to a couple who looked forward to its arrival. The excitement and joy would be transferred to the child. It is here, in this stage, that a child begins to develop its self concept. And this self concept will have a say in the child's character, if we want it to or not.

From the moment a child is placed on the mother's bare stomach in the hospital, the lessons of character begin. Some would argue that this learning process starts even earlier while the child is still in the womb. I deal with a lot of parents who decide to start parenting when their child begins to develop delinquent behaviors like: authority avoidance, anti-social attitudes, and academic failure. These parents never realised their role started years before. They had no idea that their past dysfunctions would be propagated in the life of their offspring.

Stay tuned theres more to come! Next we will explore the early years of parenting.



His Girl Friday said...

some quick things come to mind: my time is not my own anymore, and sometimes you have to put things off that you want to buy because the kids have outgrown the clothes you 'just' bought them!! Also, they're asking harder and harder questions, and expect more than 'because I said so' ;D
They've definitely challenged me on patience, and not being so quick-tempered, being organised and consistent. And, I've learned that to do what I say, also means that that's what I'm doing.

storyteller said...

HIG makes some excellent points here reminding us all that the role of parent isn't always "fun" (even if it's supposed to be)or easy … though it may be “simple” when we get down to basics.

Actually, sometimes "because I said so" may be an appropriate response in the sense that some things may be too complicated to explain but necessary for survival ... like not playing in the street. Other times a simple explanation may be better than complexity kids may not be mature enough to grasp.

Most importantly, I believe kids learn by watching what we do more than from what we tell them. Observing them play "mommy & daddy" games can be most revealing. I often found myself surprised by what kids said and did when they assumed the role of "teacher" on rainy days. They don't miss a trick and they are powerful mirrors reflecting ourselves in ways we might find embarrassing at times. That's one of the reasons for the "I'm not perfect song" I wrote about at Small Reflections on 11-7-97 in a post entitled "Oh my Lord, there's so much to do!" This song tended to defuse such situations with laughter (of the non-laugh-track, genuine kind) ... something I suspect we need more of in today's world. But (stepping off my soapbox here) what the heck do I know? I don't have any kids of my own.
Hugs and blessings,

Talking Bear said...

I love your soap box, You have a ton of parenting experience gained from a classroom. Never underestimate the importance of the knowledge you bring to the soap box.

ST, I am going to use an analogy here. I have been rock climbing for close to 26 years now. Rock climbing is simple, easy and fun, just like parenting. Yes there is the struggle. There is the pain and agony of rock inflicts on the body. There is shear terror sometimes. The stakes are high and anger is ever present. But, that is the fun part. The easy part is to simply go up without coming down real fast. The challenge is ours to accept or reject. What to climb, when to climb, and when to stay in camp are all choices we must make. When I approach a climb with fear I my heart that climb, no matter if I have done it before, becomes wickedly difficult. When I approach climbs with a spirit of fun, no matter how hard the route is, I have a blast. The difference is in my own past experiences.

Parenting is very similar. I have three wonderful children, with HGF. Children do understand complexity, just not our complexity. Role modeling is HUGE in their complex world. We as parents need to learn how to translate between the two complexities with actions as well as words. Seeing the questions from their eyes helps us explore the answer with them. To believe in them is second only to believing in ourselves as parents. Once again, the challenge is ours to accept or reject. There is much at stake. Parenting can be difficult if we approach it the wrong way with the wrong reasons.

storyteller said...

Well put! The teacher in me bows to the parent in you ... and says

Of course the coward in me also bows to the rock climber in you ... and runs the other direction :)

All kids should be so blessed with such enlightened parents!
Hugs and blessings,

Talking Bear said...

LOL, I don't know about being enlightened, More like bruised and battered, lol. You are no coward young lady. Your sharing has spoken to that. You are a breath of fresh air which has a heart of gold.

Let me ask you this, What is the goal of parenting?

storyteller said...

I don't know that I'm qualified to answer your question (since I'm not a parent myself) but I know my brother and sister both sought to raise responsible, caring, capable, sons who would discover and use their gifts in meaningful ways.

My main goals as a teacher were:
--to fan the flame and keep the love of learning alive (and/or reignite that spark where it had been snuffed or was flickering dangerously)
--to help kids acquire whatever skills and information needed in order to teach themselves whatever they need to know, whenever they need to know it ... because learning never ends.

I'm grateful every day for the brave, caring, dedicated folk engaged in the rescue of and education of our young people. It's a seriously under-appreciated and often under-paid (and sometimes irresponsibly maligned) group.
Hugs and blessings,

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