Dad, Impress Character and Values on Your Children
Several weeks ago I wrote about coaching our kids’ character with an example from the movie When the Game Stands Tall. I want to continue on that theme today, with a story from my youth and a challenge for all of us dads.
Can you remember a time in your childhood when you felt really affirmed? For me, it was a Sunday afternoon when I was fifteen or sixteen. We were hanging out with our extended family after church at my aunt’s home, and it was always a large gathering. We arrived early, and I was enjoying a comfortable chair in her living room. As more people arrived, the room kept filling up and pretty soon it got crowded. Then a woman walked into the room—an older relative—but all the chairs were taken.
I made plenty of mistakes when I was that age, but that day I did the right thing. My dad had schooled me: when a woman needs a place to sit, you get up and she sits down. So that’s what I did.
It wasn’t that big of a deal to me at the time; I just did what I knew I needed to do. But very soon it became a big deal. One of my relatives made a big fuss over it: “Did you see what Carey did? He stood and let a lady have his chair; and that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
As a teenager, although I was embarrassed, it felt pretty good. At a time when a lot of changes were going on in me and it seemed like people didn’t always like me, that moment was very affirming.
Now, I’m not telling this story just to build up the teenager who still lives inside this fifty-something-year-old man. There’s a lesson here for dads about teaching our children what’s right and having high expectations for them. It touches on all kinds of things that we try to impress upon our children: good manners, seeing something that needs to be done and taking the initiative to do it, making a positive first impression, and all kinds of other virtues and values.
Bigger picture, we want our kids to learn proper respect for other people—ultimately developing a humility that values others above ourselves, not just looking out for our own interests but also the interests of others.
And if your children feel affirmed because they lived out a virtue that you taught to them and challenged them to demonstrate, that can be very rewarding, for you and for them. It’s even better when someone else notices and compliments them. That’s when the character-shaping process works best.
So, dad, this week is simply an encouragement to keep making those investments. The things you teach your kids really do matter and are likely making a difference, even if it often seems like you aren’t getting through to your kids.
When has your child surprised you by doing something good that you’ve been teaching him or her?
Action Points for Dads on the Journey
• What manners or good habits did your father or another father figure impress upon you? Tell your kids about how he did that, and what effect it had on you.
• If you really want your kids to have good manners and behavior, you have to model it for them … over and over.
• With young kids especially, prepare them in advance for a social situation they’ll encounter and talk about how to handle it.
• As your kids learn and grow, they will make mistakes. Have high expectations, but patience is a must.
• Watch your kids carefully and catch them doing something right. Then affirm them briefly but sincerely.
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