Who Should Be Teaching Your Child About Character and Virtues?
James L. Casale, Ph.D.
Do you believe that specific virtues and character traits lead to a happy and successful life? If you do, have you thought about how these traits are acquired and who is supposed to instill them in our children?
Are character traits ever acquired by coddling, pampering, and giving in to the whims and desires of our children? Are you raising a “I want it and need it now” child, or a teenybopper who says unabashedly, “but all my friends have one”?
Coddling Gone Wild
Kathleen Parker, an editorial writer for the Washington Post, touches on this subject but doesn’t go far enough. Her editorial, “Our coddling culture … “ is worth a read by all parents and educators. She does not blame the students. She blames the “Everybody Gets a Trophy Culture” and a system that does not teach about” history, government or the Bill of Rights. She claims, and rightly so, that the current condition of overly sensitive students “was auto-induced with the zealous pampering of the American child”. I concur, but my focus is on the parent component, not the schools and colleges.
The election results and wimpy kids
Nothing emphasizes her opinion and my essay more than the reaction of the college crowd who are so upset with the election results; they’re protesting in the streets. My own grandchildren-though not protesting in the streets- are also upset because the election results don’t mirror their progressive tendencies.” I’m scared” says my 18-year-old grandson. Is that a character trait or a virtue?
And some of these coddled adolescents are so distraught; they’re asking their professors to cancel the mid-term exams! God help me. God help them. What have we taught these kids about coping with situations they don’t like or agree with? Where is the character component they desperately need to succeed on this planet? Don’t they watch the reality shows like Life Below Zero and the Alaskan Bush People? That’s coping!
The schools are trying to be parents
Schools are trying,through various character education programs, to sincerely and earnestly teach about character and virtue and the connection to success. But, it’s not their job or responsibility. I recently attended a well-meaning Character Education assembly at Franklin Academy in Palm Beach Gardens. My grandson received an award for his resiliency. I am proud of him as are his parents, and his grandparents.
School officials flashed a huge replication of the school’s character pledge on the gymnasium wall and showed a clip from the latest Rocky movie, Creed. Well done. Good try. I hope it helps, but it is no substitute for what goes on at home.
Parents need to wise up
John Gardner reminds us that,” The smallest school in America is the family.” Parents and caregivers are responsible for child rearing; teaching and modeling the character traits and virtues that will foster healthy emotional and spiritual growth. This is not the responsibility of K-12 schools or colleges.
Two things parents must do immediately
Two critical things that parents must do early and often are: 1) State your expectations for your children, write them down on a poster board, and hang it up in a conspicuous place in your house. Refer to it often. 2) Model your expectations, your character and your virtues on a daily basis. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Parents must wise up and step up.
Dr. Casale is a state and national award-winning educator and the author of numerous articles and essays on Education. His highly praised guide for parents, Wise Up and Be the Solution: How To Create a Culture of Learning at Home and Make Your Child a Success in School, is available in book stores, on Amazon.com, and from his website, www.parentsfirst.biz.