Friday, June 5, 2009

A Child Of Virtue

Lately I've been letting my girls watch TV a little more, to wind down for nap time as well as to distract them before dinner. I know it's not the best thing for them, but it has been good for me for a couple of reasons. First (and most obviously), it helps me maintain my sanity during times when the kids are prone to crankiness. Second, since we don't actually have television per se, they are watching videos and DVDs that I have picked out for them. Shows like Franklin, Winnie The Pooh, Davey & Goliath, and the ubiquitous (in our house) VeggieTales. Shows that make me think about what I am teaching my kids.

It has got me thinking about values education - how we can raise our children to be children of virtue. Children who are truthful, kind, compassionate, helpful, patient, generous, and courageous. Maybe this is shooting for the moon, when we adults can't even live up to these on a daily basis. Do you think it's unrealistic? At least no parent would say these goals are undesirable! Even the public school system has acknowledged the need for "character instruction" in young people, and has incorporated into the curriculum things like mandatory volunteering and anti-bullying workshops.

For me, I am fully aware that a school curriculum or children's show cannot ease my responsibility to train up my children in the way they should go. Nonetheless, it is great for Boo to be able to watch a show that demonstrates honesty and respect, rather than so many of the garbage cartoons on television that show self-absorbed characters with no respect for authority. One show that I really like is Adventures From The Book Of Virtues by PBS. Each episode focuses on one virtue (such as Generosity, Friendship, or Honesty) and uses folk tales, legends, poems and more to teach children how they should behave. The stories are interesting, often humourous, and the animation is engaging. I wish I could find more videos in this series!

The other side of this, however, is where I am challenged. As a parent, my children will learn most thoroughly from my own example. It's not enough to tell my children how they ought to behave, I need to model it in my daily life. If I want honest children, I can't lie about little things to try to get them to do what I want. If I want them to be respectful, I must treat my husband and others with respect. I can't badmouth the cop who gave me a speeding ticket (hypothetically speaking) or argue about their Daddy's parenting methods in front of them. If I want them to be friendly to people who are different than them, I need to associate with people who are different than myself. And harder still, if I want them to be hardworking, I need to demonstrate hard work with cheerfulness.

Sadly, character does not come easily for any of us. I thank God, however, that I don't have to be perfect. I do have to be able to acknowledge my faults and work on improving myself. And I pray that as God works in their lives, as He works in mine, He will make up for my weaknesses and teach them the things that are as yet beyond me.

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