(based on Work from Author and Psychologist, John Rosemond)
Good Character is learned in the home first and foremost. The three R’s of good citizenship–Respect, Responsibility and Resourcefulness–are the bedrock of good character. A solid moral and ethical foundation supports the development of compassion, integrity, commitment, selflessness, and all of the other attributes that constitute the “good neighbor.”
Teaching Respect for others
Instilling a respectful attitude in a child is essential in order for him/her to be a “good citizen” and requires
- That discipline, when necessary, be delivered purposefully, but calmly
- That a child’s point of view be taken into account when making family decisions
- That parents’ actions are consistent with their words
Understanding what the Discipline of children is, and is not:
What Discipline Is
Discipline is the process by which parents make disciples of their children, a child-disciple being one who pays close attention to his parents and follows their lead. There are numerous aspects to this overall process, but three are of primary importance:
- Establishing reasonable, yet challenging, expectations
- Setting and enforcing limits
- Modeling socially appropriate behavior
What Discipline Is Not
Discipline is not primarily a matter of punishment, although punishing inappropriate behavior is certainly part of the overall process. The goal is not to make the child passively subservient, but to make the child self-sufficient.
A community cannot thrive without citizens who are willing to think beyond themselves and contribute to the community. Children acquire this sense of social responsibility if they are not overindulged and if they are consistently expected to contribute to their families.
- Overindulged children never really learn that it’s better to give than to receive
- Children who are not performing daily chores are at risk of believing that it’s possible to get something for nothing
- Unfortunately, children who don’t do chores are usually also overindulged, and vice versa. This combination is devastating to a child’s healthy character development.
When it comes to giving to children, parents should be conservative. Hearing “no” on a regular basis helps children to learn to postpone gratification, tolerate frustration, and set long-term goals, all necessary attributes of good citizenship. By age four, a child should be performing household chores on a daily basis. As the child grows, those responsibilities should increase so that by the early teen years the child is capable of carrying out just about any task. The more productive the child is within the family, the more productive a citizen the child will become.
The third “R” of good citizenship involves learning to tough it out when there’s a challenge.
- Parents can help children develop an “I can!” attitude by setting reasonably high goals and then providing the support and encouragement needed to reach those goals.
- A second aspect of resourcefulness is creativity. The more opportunities a child has for imaginary/creative play, the stronger the child’s imagination becomes.
Want to help your child become resourceful? A certain amount of Frustration is absolutely essential to healthy character formation and emotional growth.
- The purpose of raising children is to help them out of our lives and into successful lives of their own. Therefore, as parents we are obligated to raise children in a manner consistent with the reality of the world they will eventually face as adults.
- As we all know, adult reality involves significant amounts of frustration. We experience frustration in response not only to our own limitations, but also to the limitations that other people and circumstances impose upon us.
- Through experience with frustration, we eventually develop a tolerance for it. We accept its inevitability and determine not to let it get us down. This tolerance enables the growth of resourcefulness and other creative coping mechanisms.
- People who learn to tolerate frustration are able to turn adversity into a challenge and persevere.
- Perseverance is the primary quality in every success story. Whether the field of endeavor is occupational, recreational, social, personal, marital, or parental, the person who perseveres is the person most likely to succeed.
- All the above mentioned growth takes place because of–not in spite of–that supposedly dreadful F-word, FRUSTRATION.
Lesson: If you want your children to become successful adults – successful in their work, their play, their interpersonal relationships, and their feelings toward themselves – you are obligated to frustrate them.
You begin by filling this obligation with regular doses of Vitamin “N”
- Turn their world right side up by giving them all of what they truly need, but no more than 25 percent of what they simply want.
- Don’t do for your children what they are capable of doing themselves. “You can do that on your own” pushes the growth of perseverance and self-sufficiency. When the child says, “I can’t,” don’t argue. Just say “Well, I won’t.” You’ll be amazed at how creative and resourceful children can be under the right circumstances.
- Don’t always rescue them from failure or disappointment. Remember that falling on one’s face can be an invaluable learning experience.
- Remember that just because a child doesn’t like something doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen or exist. For children to grow up it requires that parents resist the temptation to constantly protect them from the discomfort of having to divest dependency.
- Don’t worry about treating children fairly. Remember that to a child, “fair” means “me first,” with the biggest and best of anything.
- Remember that simply because you enjoy a good stand of living doesn’t mean you’re obligated to share it in full with your children. Vitamin N gives children something to strive for, along with the skills with which to strive.
- Don’t overdose your children emotionally by giving them too much attention or too much praise. If you pay too much attention to your children, they have no reason to pay attention to you.
Media (television, iPads, video games, screen time in general) impedes Resourcefulness:
- A child watching “a screen” learns to depend on something outside himself for creative stimulation. He doesn’t learn to be creative. He learns how to be a spectator instead of a doer.
- A child watching “a screen” is not practicing independence or exercising any initiative. He learns how to be complacent, dependent, resource-less, and irresponsible.
Endangered Minds: Why Our Children Don’t Think and Fail to Connect by Jane Healy (recommended books concerning screen time and young children)
- Healy proposed that our electronic environment is actually altering the brains of our children. She sees a connection between the increase in reading problems, learning disabilities, and attention problems.
The solution? Pull the plug. Ideally, children under six should not be watching any type of media whatsoever. If that’s way too radical for you . . . a half hour a day will suffice and not do any real harm.
We are going to wrap up this evening with a very edited version of a prescription for successful parenthood from my favorite book by John Rosemond’s Six Point Plan.
- Point 1: Pay more attention to your marriage than you do your children.
Put first things first and keep them there, where they belong and are more likely to last. Single parents: pay slightly more attention to yourself than you do your children.
- Point 2: Expect your children to obey.
Stop apologizing for the decisions you make in their lives. Get back in touch with the power of “because I said so”. Stop trying to persuade your children that your decisions are for their own good. Essential to a child’s sense of security are parents who are authoritative, decisive and trustworthy – in a word, powerful.
- Point 3: Mobilize your children’s participation in the family by expecting and enabling them from an early age to make regular, tangible contributions to the family in the only form possible – chores.
Along with making them responsible for the family, make them responsible for their own behavior. Stop trying to keep them from falling flat on their faces. Let them learn from their mistakes.
- Point 4: Give your child regular and realistic doses of Vitamin N.
Stop thinking that your first obligation is to keep your children happy. Your first obligation is to endow them with the skills they need to successfully pursue happiness on their own. Frustrate your children for success!
- Point 5: Where toys are concerned, less is more.
Too many toys can stifle creativity and resourcefulness. When your child says something that I call the “b” word BORED . . .they are trying to tell us they’ve been given too much, too soon.
- Point 6: Don’t be misled by the accolades given certain children’s programs
Remember there’s more going on than meets the eye when a child watches a screen (no matter the program).
And . . . Love your children enough to do all six!