What matters most on your list of parenting aspirations?
Or do you have a parenting vision and mission statement?
Does the word ‘character’ or term ‘character education’ figure anywhere on your list?
There has been so much talk lately in our Singapore education and parenting circles about the need for character education. But what exactly is character education? Whose responsibility is it? Why is it important and how?
Starting To Make Our Intentional “Parenting For Character” Plan
In order to examine what character education really means for our children, we have to first hit a pause button on our lives and take a good hard look at the daily rhythms and schedule in our homes.
Take a one week ‘Chart My Life‘ challenge. Every night, after you put the children to bed, take 3 minutes to jot down the key activities your children have been involved in, what you and your children have done together (well, screaming at them would count as one), and think of 2-3 words to describe the day. Be as honest as you can when you describe what you felt and observed about the day. Only you will be reading this so take the plunge, will you? Do this for 7 days.
Set it aside for a few days once you are done with it. Come back to it and look at what you have noted.
Before you review your ‘Chart My Life’ noted, make a list of top 3-5 values and virtues you would like your children to acquire in the next 3 years.
Now, let us take a look at your chart.
As you do, Ask yourself these questions:
- What three activities top the list in terms of frequency and/or duration?
- What sort of values might your children be learning through these activities?
- How are these activities helping to shape the values you would like inculcated in your children? ( Refer to the list you just made earlier.)
- After comparing between the two, do you think you need to change any activity or habit in your lives? Why?
What Must I Do To Parent With Character?
Are you feeling just a little exhausted already reading the above?
I bet you are if you are like me. But I have come to realise that raising children (especially boys! ) with character is really HARD work!
1. Be Ready For Hardship
It is HARD because we, as parents, have to be constantly observant, reflective, intentional, sensitive, and consistent in all that we do. ALL we do. No break time from your good behavior,Momies and Daddies!
How we lead our lives- how and what we say and do- IS the BIGGEST and MOST impactful lesson in character we are giving our children. It is a lesson you will be giving to your children 24/7 with and without your physical presence.
As the very old-almost-trite-but-so-true saying goes, ‘ Character is more caught than taught.’ You can substitute ‘character’ with ‘behaviour’, ‘habits’, ‘values’ or ‘virtues’ and the statement will still remain true.
2. No Pain No Gain
Parenting to raise children with character is also a PAINFUL process.
Painful because more than dealing with the stubbornness and inertia of our children, we have bigger and more stubborn individuals to deal with – US.
We cannot hope for an apple tree to bear pears. Nor a grapevine tp bear figs. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And so.
I know I may have put a big fat burden of responsibility on the shoulders of all is parents. I hate to say too that there is probably no way of getting out of this responsibility. No outsourcing help would help much either I am afraid.
Of course we have other loving relatives, friends and teachers we partner with in contributing to our children’s character formation. But still the primary onus is on us parents because our children naturally look to us as their chief authoritative reference and approval figures.
3. Examine Your Heart & Hands
So how do we begin a journey of intentional parenting where we can hope to raise our children into adults of character?
We have to begin with ourselves.
We have to examine our own values and priorities in life.
“Habit in the hand of the mother,
is as his wheel to the potter,
his knife to the carver,
the instrument by which she turns out
the design she has already concieved in her brain.”
We have to look at our own lives- what activities consume our time and energies? What behaviors characterize us?
What we believe in and love and prize consumes most of efforts and energies.
In short, we scrutinize ourselves and be our very worst critiques in order to know what sort of values we are teaching our children.
4. Be Ready To Confront and Conquer Your Flaws
Of course none of us are perfect. And what then?
This is when we also need to be HONEST and EARNEST in our parenting journeys.
HONESTY about our own shortcomings with our own children.
Apologizing to even our children and seeking their forgiveness when we have stumbled and even hurt them in the process ( like I daily do- my terrible temper and quick hurtful tongue) are things many more of my parent peers are doing, as I do myself. This should not be seen as a weakness but a strength.
To be able to acknowledge our shortcomings with our children sets the stage for us being able to role-model to them how we also learn to overcome our shortcomings.
“If you as parents cut corners your child will too.
If you lie, they will too….
And if parents snicker at racial and gender jokes,
another generation will pass on the posion
adults still have not had the courage to snuff out.”
Marian W. Edelman
Children need to understand that life is all about learning to grow in maturity, the courage to confront mistakes and to change. .
Though experts say the individual’s character is formed by age 6, no one ever ‘finishes’ an education in character.
Isn’t it clear from our adult lives that even we are still learning to be better people daily?
I know I haven’t talked a whole lot about HOW to raise children with the right values and character. But since this is the first of my (hopefully) series of Project Braveheart character posts, I thought I would start at Ground Zero.
To set the foundation right is to get OUR hearts right for this honorable and (yikes!) intimidating task of raising children right.
If we get our big picture for parenting into focus, and if we align our personal life values with that of our families’, I think we will all
find it much easier to nurture values and virtues in our children.
After all, isn’t parenting just another expression of who we really are?
Finally, I leave you with these thoughts:
If you are feeling inadequate as a parent
You can do all things through Christ
Who strengthens you.
If you are struggling to overcome your weaknesses
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
(2 Corinthians 12:9)
If you struggle with guilt
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
( Psalm 103:12)
If you struggle with not knowing what to do
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
If you are just overwhelmed by the enormity of your parenting call, and feel exhausted, be encouraged by one of my favourite promises:
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
He gently leads those that have young.
In my next post I would like to share about WHAT values and virtues I am striving to impart to my children.
Till then, do remember to check out the 5 other posts by my Mom-blogger friends in this Braveheart series!
5 Feb 2013 – Rachel of Catch Forty Winks
19 Feb 2013 – Elisa of Love Our Children Now
26 Feb 2013 – Sharon of Oak Tree Baby
5th Mar 2013 – Jean of Jean Stitch