Sunday, March 8, 2009
Never Tease a Weasel...
Over the years, I have had many people ask me about how to teach positive character to their children. Years ago, I thought you could teach it through books specifically designed for this purpose. We checked out books with titles like "Let's Talk about Whining" and "Let's talk about Lying" from the church library. We still own a book called "Never Tease a Weasel." It has been well over a decade since I have looked at this book but I can still recite:
Never tease a weasel,
Now there's some good advice.
A weasel will not like it,
And teasing isn't nice.
But, you know what? Those books did not help one bit to teach my kids not to whine, lie or tease. It was like the books were one thing, life another.
My husband went to a seminar once and brought home some beautiful books with animal lessons. Each animal was supposed to teach a Biblical truth, a character trait for the children to emulate. They were beautiful books with matching coloring books. The kids enjoyed the stories and learning about the animals. One year I had Chad [then late middle school age] teach a lesson every week to Kari and Scotty for their science. The books were that good!
There were ducks and wolves and all sorts of interesting facts woven into the fiber of the underlying theme of teaching character. They loved those books! But, just because a baby duck has to obey his mother at the first call or he will be left in the nest of the hollow tree to die, it didn't make my kids want to obey when I first called. And, if you follow the logic of the book, the mother duck had some serious character issues of her own if she would leave a baby behind just because he didn't obey her the first time she called. I mean, he was her baby, after all.
Then I understood! Character is caught not taught!
The way to teach children how to be honest, is to be honest. [harder than reading a book called "Let's talk about honesty."]
The way to teach children compassion is to be compassionate.
Scary huh? You know it's true. Kids watch us like hawks and they don't miss a trick. They see if we give back the extra quarter the clerk gave us in our change. They see if we help a neighbor or look the other way so we can avoid them. They know if we pick up the phone when we know it is our mother-in-law on the other end. They hear us gossip. Don't get discouraged! Granted, we are not perfect and we make mistakes; but I think realizing that we are teaching character when we think our kids are not looking, will make us better parents-- better people- and better ambassadors for Christ! And, we don't have to be perfect to do a good job.
Character is caught, not taught.
Next time I will talk about another way to share your core beliefs related to character with your children. [Never Tease a Weasel part 2]
[Photos: The kids learning the value of hard work and being good workers; Chad reading to siblings, showing kindness and compassion]