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Mental Health: Parenting children, teaching virtuous behavior

Valley Morning Star - 8/20/2017

This morning, having to complete some shopping at my favorite store, I observed a young boy, probably about 7 or 8 years old, opening deodorant containers and seeing, and "sniffing" the contents.

He was with his parents, whom appeared to be quite oblivious to his behavior (I assumed he was their son, as they were all dressed the same, wearing matching shirts of a major football team, and the boy followed them from aisle to aisle).

I asked the boy what he was doing, and he related that he was sniffing the deodorant, because it smelled good. I asked the parents in a very polite manner if they noticed his behavior, they completely ignored me, and gave no heed to what their son was doing. They continued down the store aisles, as their son continued to open containers along the way.

Unfortunately this scenario is played out more and more in today's society (in a much larger way however), and I am sure that you the reader, as well as I; have seen this behavior played out very often.

Obviously the parents of this child have not taught him the virtuous behaviors of "being good and doing good."

This event brought back memories of teaching our own children about behaviors related to our visits to a department store. We taught them that the merchandise belonged to the store, and we did not touch an item unless we were going to purchase it.

They learned this lesson well, and never picked up, played with, or otherwise handled the merchandise?it did not belong to them until it was purchased; they learned the virtuous behaviors of being good and doing good, whether it be in stores or other venues of life.

Parental leadership is essential to the development of a child's behavior.

The roles that parents take can be classified in three categories, as with any leader: Being a Lassez Faire leader, an Autocratic Leader, or a Democratic Leader. The Lassez Faire leader is one who allows those under his/her leadership to accomplish their tasks without any supervision; in other words "to do their own thing."

The Autocratic Leader is very stern and confrontive, constantly overseeing other's tasks ("do as I tell you!"). The Democratic Leader works with those under his/her leadership, being available to them always should the need arise ("what can we do to make this more understandable and helpful to you in accomplishing this task.").

Unfortunately, as in the example of the child that I gave, the parents were Lassez Faire type leaders; just letting the boy do whatever he wanted to. The Democratic Leader teaches examples of virtuous behaviors?"being good and doing good," and monitors and teaches this to those under his/her care; whether it be in potty training, teaching how to tie shoelaces, interpersonal relationship with others, deportment in a department store, and the many other facets of life.

A constructive, good parent has learned that at times it may take a little bit of all of the leadership styles in the parenting of their children (bouncing back and forth at times), but always insuring the child is "being good and doing good."

The current state of affairs within our American culture is testimony to the lack of virtuous behaviors instilled in our youth; the rioting, hate speech, bullying, murders, etc?all evidence that individuals are moving away from virtues and embracing the opposite?lack of respect for others lives and property, lack of respect to the history of our founding fathers and the true history of our nation?in essence many are "being bad and doing bad." And then, many will sit back and say, "Why do they do that?"

We are currently living in a society where many have lost their "moral compass;" and are changing the face of society. And the new "millennia generation" whom are having children of their own are teaching their children that they are the "entitled ones," that they can do or be anything they want to be.

However, many children are not taught the values that are so very essential to prepare them for adolescence and adulthood. I vividly remember a song that I played prior to my many presentations on children and parenting across our state; a song by Crosby, Stills, and Nash; that went: "Parents teach your children well?and let them know you love them." Children are not born with virtues, they must be taught about living a virtuous life; from parents, significant others, religion, schools, etc.

The sum total of what we learn about virtues and virtuous behavior is our self-concept and our self-image; how we see ourselves, our perception of how others see us, and how others actually see us; and our relationship to our social and physical environment. If virtues are not leaned, and if one does not engage in virtuous behaviors, then one will engage in non-virtuous behaviors; lying, promiscuity, bad conduct, criminal behaviors, etc; all conducive to poor mental health.

Children learn primarily through observation; at a level commensurate with their intellectual capacity and their motivation to learn. Observing their parents and others behaviors is a direct correlation to this.

Children observe the non-virtuous behaviors of their parents; engaging in alcohol and other substance abuse, not stopping at stop or yield signs while driving, arguing and fighting among spouses, etc; and these are attributes they will most likely copy as they grow up. The actions of the parents, whether they are virtuous or non-virtuous actions, will have a direct bearing on the child's self-concept and self-image as well.

The positive thoughts and feelings that result from virtuous actions provide the child with a sense of self-satisfaction as well, while non-virtuous behaviors give most children thoughts and feelings of guilt and shame.

Parents can insure that their child develops virtuous behaviors by: insuring the child's needs for safety and nourishment are met; knowing where the child is at all the time and whom they associate with; insisting on respect for others, always being a consistent parent with the child, limit the time the child is watching TV or on other electronic devices; prepare your child for adulthood; knowing what your child's hopes, dreams and ambitions are and to encourage them to pursue their true passions in life; teach your child about values and set an example for them to follow; and above everything else give your child unconditional love.

Yes my friends, virtuous behaviors are not given at birth or by happen-stance. Are you parents out their insuring that your child learns virtuous behaviors? Until Next Time, Stay Healthy My Friends!


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