Teaching Character

I had an interesting conversation with a child the other day like I do most days.  Children always have the most interesting things to say and they make me think so hard.  

My daughter was observing how often she meets children that don’t have any deep thoughts or character. We discussed whether or not someone had to have hardships in order to have good character. Do you have to suffer to learn?

I wonder.

I actually had someone tell me once when I was near death…

I suffered so you can suffer. It’s good for you.

What a strange idea.

I think suffering is one way to learn but I disagree that it is the best or most necessary or even a good way to learn.  Personally I learn very well through study and observation. I can see from watching my fifteen year old that I never want to own a dairy farm.  I’m smart like that.

Actually I do own a dairy farm.  I just never want to be the person running it and taking care of all the animals and I don’t want my car smelling like manure. But that’s just me.

Of course some measure of suffering is unavoidable in this life but I don’t think it is something anyone needs to seek out and it’s certainly not something we should be imposing on others because we think it will be good for them.

Maybe it will change their life for the better.

Or maybe it will crush them and they will never recover.

No, I don’t think people need a prescribed amount of suffering to learn.

Challenges, yes.

Purpose, yes.

Opportunities, yes!

Most of all, opportunities.

I’m not afraid to give my children all the opportunities I can.  They are learning to work hard, appreciate what they have and share with others.

I have a funny idea that people should work together and help each other.

I hear of people refusing to pass on their assets to their children in order to teach them to work hard but that seems so silly to me. Just teach them to work hard and then help each other so your family can progress generationally. I know children of wealthy parents can grow up to be spoiled brats. Children of wealthy parents can also grow up to be kind and hard working. It’s not about the money. It’s about the relationship.

I have no intention of kicking my children out of my home at some arbitrary age and withholding my support to watch them struggle alone. Right now we work together to accomplish great things.  I hope that will never stop.

The other day my daughter told me that when she grows up and moves away she wants me to live with her to do her hair.

I feel so useful!

How do you treat your children like royalty while teaching them to work hard?

It’s a very deep subject and I have experimented and learned a lot throughout the years but I still have more questions than answers.

Some people think that forcing their children to obey and teaching them their duty will create good character but the last thing I want is an obedient child. I want children that think for themselves and do things because they want to and because it benefits them, not because someone is forcing them to. You can’t truly help others without benefiting yourself so I hope my children will be as selfish as possible and do all the good they can in the world.

Some people think that neglecting their children and leaving them to do whatever they want will create good character because life will teach them all the lessons they need to learn. I think that creates chaos and senseless suffering.

There is a middle way that very few parents find. A way that teaches children to cooperate and teaches them to work hard while giving them the resources and the education they need to make good choices.

Of course I don’t really have anything figured out so don’t listen to me but as i raise my children I see patterns emerging. I think a big piece of the puzzle is giving children as much responsibility as they can handle while keeping your expectations very high.

I can’t force my children to do anything they don’t want to do so I don’t even try. Too many parents find this out the day their child moves away and drops everything they tried to teach them. I know too many children who were forced to practice an instrument only to stop and never play again once they are away from their parents influence.

My children work hard because they want to and I help them see there is a purpose to it. My sixteen year old will work herself sick for her animals sake. My ten year old will come home exhausted from an all day outing but she won’t go to bed without practicing her violin. I would do anything for these girls and give them anything and they are far from being spoiled brats.

They have experienced suffering in their lives but it wasn’t the suffering that made them who they are. It was their education and opportunities.

They are good people in spite of their suffering.


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