Every child is unique. There is no one-size-fits all kind of upbringing that every parent should use to raise children. Each child comes with her gift. But some parents think that the task of bringing up their children in morals and character is a job for the school. When it is a question of spiritual formation, they look up to the church as the only institution that should do that. Such parents have it wrong. The primary teacher of the child is neither the priest nor the teacher at school; it is the parent. The family itself is a domestic church, hence, it is the first place where the child begins to learn about the faith not in the church.
Before the child goes to school, she is already being educated at home. We call this informal education but it is this education that happens before she sets foot into school that is crucial in the upbringing of the child.
Parents should bear this in mind in bringing up a child of character: children learn what the parents live. So if parents live their values, their children will most likely grow to appreciate values. Living the values should be complemented with talking explicitly about values. This helps the children to develop them. This is most important considering the negative teachings children are bombarded with by the media.
To raise a child of character, the child should be encouraged to develop some specific traits. Three of these traits are:
- Values: Children learn not merely from being told to be honest or loyal; they learn values by observing what the parents do. Schools, religious institutions, TV, are all teachers when it comes to values. However most teenagers point to their parents as the primary source of their values. Many parents do not discuss values with their children. Somehow they think that their children will magically develop values. Talk about values with your children and live them. The part of living out values is not easy in this part of the world but consider the consequence of not doing so.
- Spirituality: There is a spiritual dimension to life, hence, children ought to get spiritual lessons. Teach them to trust in God early in life, that life itself is sacred, and that nature deserves a certain degree of reverence. They should know that their presence in the world contributes to its beauty. Let them learn to establish a connection with God through prayer.
- Responsibility: We all want to live in a world where others have been raised to be responsible. A man not responsible to his family is no one’s wish. Responsibility therefore should not be seen as a burden. Children should be taught to respond to what needs to be done and be confident that they are able – “response-able”. This will grow their self-esteem and make their lives meaningful. To be responsible is to make positive contribution with one’s own life. Children have a contribution to make. As they get older, their contributions should increase accordingly both within and outside the home.
The responsibility of raising a child is one that challenges the parent to be the best (s)he can be.
You may add other traits you consider important using the comment section below.