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Children?s Stepping Stones

As the father of four children, I often ask myself, ?What can I leave in them?and how can I do it and when can I do it?? This is a challenge that faces every parent regardless of his or her culture, beliefs, or education and social status. It is a concern since cultural dynamics have changed the way people, young and old, interact, foster values and lay down stepping stones that children can use to develop moral, mental and physical strengths that are essential in their future.

We are living in a time when our youth, by the time they graduate from high school, have spent more time watching TV than doing homework. Parents? personal pursuits, career or recreation have relegated children?s needs to a secondary level. We are drowning in child-rearing information, yet starving for basic and time-tested child-raising knowledge. It is time when generally no two schools of thought agree on what is good for children, while both can identify children?s needs.

Douglas MacArthur, U.S. Army general in World War II and Korea, said ?By profession I am a soldier and take pride in that fact. But I am prouder ? infinitely prouder ? to be a father. A soldier destroys in order to build; the father only builds, never destroys. The one has the potentiality of death; the other embodies creation and life. And while the hordes of death are mighty, the battalions of life are mightier still. It is my hope that my son, when I am gone, will remember me not from the battle but in the home repeating with him our simple daily prayer, ?Our Father Who Art in Heaven?.?

Gen. MacArthur?s words point to one thing ? setting priorities. What is important to you, your career or the spiritual, moral and physical development of your child(ren)? The property you accumulate or the character traits you instill in them? Gen. MacArthur?s words remind me of my mother?s wisdom, ?What we leave in our children is more important than what we leave for them.?

How do we leave values, responsibility and accountability in children? As a youth, growing up in Kenya, I knew what I had to do before going to school and after school. I remembered my childhood chores recently as I watched two of my friend?s children, ages six and eight, prepare to go to bed. I was so moved by the children?s demeanor and that they did one thing after another, I had to ask why they were so efficient.

The father and mother explained how they developed 5 things for the children to do just before going to bed and after waking up. The morning 5?s are: (1) Say prayers (2) Get dressed (3) Make bed (4) Pick-up room and (5) Brush teeth. The nighttime 5?s are: (1) Put pajamas on (2) Pick-up room (3) Brush teeth (4) Read Bible and (5) Say prayers. The parents told me it was a bit uphill in the beginning but after the children were used to it ? it was a way of life in their home, which they hardly thought of.

I also found that they communicated and encouraged their children to develop, and adhere to, seven character traits that can easily be taught at home as they play or help with simple household chores. The seven traits are: (1) Respect ? reverence, honor and esteem for one?s faith, family members, others and self (2) Responsibility ? fulfilling obligations and being able to choose right from wrong (3) Resourcefulness - independently devising ways and means to be successful (4) Self control ? restraint over self impulses, emotions and desires (5) Caring ? protecting and providing for others, showing love, kindness and forgiveness (6) Honesty ? truthful and free from deception and (7) Humility ?not seeking glory for oneself, not proud, haughty or arrogant. They encourage their children to learn and practice these traits by giving them points- 1 to 4, 4 for excellent performance.

Whether in a structured manner or otherwise, the above ?stepping stones? can build children?s integrity, values and work ethics in ways that are second to none. There are two kinds of gifts you can give to children - stepping stones to launch their lives, and wings to fly to new heights. To love a child is to nurture him or her, spiritually and socially, in order to be competent in their future.

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