Summer is fast approaching and soon everywhere we look we will see children. Our youth are valuable contributors to the community. Just like adults, their attitudes and behaviors help to determine the current and future atmosphere of our community. As parents, it is our privilege to invest in the character of our children.
One way to invest in their self-worth is to correct them by informing them of the desired behavior rather than the offending one. For example, you’d rather say “Please pick those clothes up and put them in the laundry basket.” as opposed to saying, “Stop leaving your clothes on the floor.” If they constantly hear negative correction they will see themselves negatively, but if they repeatedly hear positive correction they receive it as direction. Their self-worth is not eroded.
There are, of course, more severe cases. A couple of years ago as I was volunteering to help 4th-6th graders put on a musical, I was asked to address a particular boy who was causing a disturbance. As I talked with the young man, he wouldn’t look me in the eye. He looked past me or up at the ceiling. He had his guard up, determined not to let my words affect him. I could see his pain and my heart went out to him. I asked him to tell me what happened to no avail. Instead of telling him what he did wrong, I spent that time telling him he has a purpose in life and how he has been equipped with certain gifts and abilities to accomplish great things in this world. During the course of this explanation, his whole demeanor began to change. He went back into the class and participated calmly. I never had to tell him what he did wrong because he already knew. He needed to hear that he had self-worth.
Another way to invest in your child’s character is to model good character. This one is obvious. Don’t tell your children to lie for you and then expect different behavior from them. Let them see you do the right thing even if it costs you something. They will learn that there is honor in having integrity.
You also model your level of perseverance. If you give up easily, they will see it. Allow yourself to be transparent with your child enough to allow them to see you persevere through a challenge. It could be anything from going back to school to working on a home improvement project. They need to see you work hard on a long-term project and then achieve your goal. Help them set age appropriate long term goals. They will be the better for it. This is a trait that they will use their entire lives.
There are many different ways to invest in their character. You can share your own experiences, discuss the behavior of other kids in school or even signing them up for team sports. Also, depending on the age of your child, there are “character building” books that can be checked out at the library or purchased at a bookstore or online.
Remember, no time invested in your children is ever wasted. You may not see immediate results, but like a seed planted in the ground, change happens below the surface before it springs for all to see. You are not only preparing them to succeed in life, you are preparing them to change the world.
Jaia Marie Curtis is a wife and mother of three, currently residing in the Florissant area. She has a graduate degree in Business Management from National Louis University. Her passion is equipping others to succeed in the areas of Marriage Preparation and Youth Empowerment.