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Teach Them Good

Bringing up a child to have grace, decency and courtesy is the responsibility of the parents. But how many parents actually know just how to do it? Linda, a expert in parenting, shares her experience and expertise in this area.

How Young Can You Start Teaching Your Children Virtues?

From birth. At birth you start speaking to the child, don't you? You say, 'hello baby, I love you'. So you are already speaking to them. It is never too early to start using virtues language. For example, if you walk into the room and the baby is crying, you can say, 'oh you had to be so patient, waiting to be fed'. So the receptive language of the child develops ahead of the expressive language. By the time they can speak, the virtues are part of their vocabulary.

How Do Parents Teach Them That?

First of all, they have to realise that is their job, One of the things that we teach is to use language in an empowering way. I saw something at the zoo. There was a woman with her son, who is about six years old. He grabbed all the straws out of the container at the restaurant, crumpled them in his hands, and threw them on the floor: She went over and picked them up, and didn't say one word to him.

What he is learning is not to respect his mother, as she will clean tip after him. Secondly, he is learning that he is not responsible for his actions. What she could have told him is 'you will pick up the straws, you will clean that mess up, and put it in the garbage. And then you will go apologise to the cafe owner'. She could have also said, `but you can have one straw for your own use'.

By not saying anything to him, he is learning to just use anything in front of him, any way he wants. It doesn't serve him well at all. In that one moment the mother lost our on the opportunity to teach her son about the virtues of responsibility, caring, respect, moderation.

So Parents Should Recognise The Moment, And Use The Right Language. Anything Else?

Number three is set clear boundaries. One of the boundaries is that if you are not in a public restaurant, you treat everything around you with respect. And to show courtesy, and manners when you are eating and when you are ordering. Another boundary could be that you have to be home at a certain time.

And everyone in the house shares responsibility. A child should learn to be responsible. Say if they marry and they do not have a lot of money and they do not have a maid, the wife becomes the maid. It's not just. And women are not accepting that anymore.

What's Number Four?

The fourth one is to honor the spirit. What that means is that every person is treated with dignity. There are certain ways to honor the spirit in a family. You could have some kind of spiritual reflection time where you share the family's story. You could have ceremonies, for instance, when a child comes of age and becomes a woman or a man.

You could have something very special, like the passing on of ring from the grandmother, or a party, to honor the coming of age. And then there is the art of spiritual companioning, a way of counselling so that you help the child to make a moral decision.

Could You Give Us An Example Please?

Parents can teach children about the virtue of kindness. How do you be a kind person? How do you open yourself to the belief that your life is purposeful? That there is a purpose for being alive? We encourage also family social gathering, with music, some kind of inspiring reading, and prayer if that is part of the family's practise, where each person shares how they focused on and how they lived the virtue that the family shared last week. They share with each other, 'I saw you being kind when you did such and such a thing last week.'

So It's Kind Like Creating Your Own Family Tradition?

That's it. We need traditions. We have become so busy that we have lost our traditions. We have lost even the capacity to sit at a meal, and quietly enjoy each other's company. We have to recreate those family traditions.

What's One Easy Way Parents Can Help Children?

Use virtues language, so that they can praise the child meaningfully. Just saying 'I'm proud of you' doesn't tell the child anything. Saying 'You showed a lot of courage today when you tried something new even though you were scared, you tried it and that took a lot of courage'. That takes less than 10 seconds to say. But it takes a little longer to learn.

A Lot Of People Tend To Think That Children Don't Understand

Oh, they understand. They have virtues in their character already. You don't have to put it in, you just have to awaken it. Children are very responsive to virtues language. I've seen babies - who cannot possibly understand what you are saying - respond to the spirit of these words. They are very powerful words. I've stopped babies from crying when they were screaming. I just walk behind the parents and I took the baby in the eye and say, 'what is it baby?; and they just stop crying, like as if they are thinking 'somebody is finally listening to me'. It's the willingness to be fully present, not trying to change them, not trying to stop them.

Kind Of Let Them Be, And Be There With Them?

Yeah, that's right. Same thing works for adults. Anyone who is willing to read and think and practise can do it. It's very simple. One of the ways to do it is to have a little list of the virtues that you can read a copy of and keep practising. Pick three of four that you practise everyday. For instance, every time you finish a conversation with someone, give that person a virtue.

Simple Virtues For Busy Parents

Name The Virtue

When you see something good in your child, name the virtue. When you see something bad in your child, direct them to a virtue that they need. Instead of saying, ' don't be naughty', say 'you need to be kind'.

Notice Teachable Moments

Notice teachable moments that come up and use the language of virtue then. Instead of shaming or ignoring a child, name a virtue.

Set Clear Rules

Set clear boundaries. Set ground rules for your household that you know are not negotiable, and put them in positive language. Tell kids what you do want, not what you don't want. Instead of saying 'don't run', say 'please walk' or 'be considerate'.

Honor Your Spirits

Share your family stories. If you have stories about the child when he was younger, tell the story and name the virtue that you saw in them. They love that. My son was very generous when he was a little boy. He saved all his money in a little bag and I was worried because he never spent it. One day he saw a show on TV about the starving children in Africa. He was four. He went into his bedroom and said, 'Mummy, can I send this money to those children?" He loves to hear that story even now when he is 36! And I tell it to his children!


Spend some time to listen to your child. Ask how was your day, what worries you, what made you happy... don't talk to children out of their feelings. Be respectful of what they feel and help them find their solutions.


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