Parenting isn’t easy. In fact, it is one of the more challenging jobs. But we can’t only attempt at it, we must succeed, because in reality, we are not only raising toddlers, we are raising the next generation of adults. It is our responsibility to mold these beautiful souls into hardworking and respectful adults, who will one day work for the common good of society. Where does it all begin? It begins in the home, just like Mother Teresa said, “Go home and love your family.”
The word love has so many different meanings, especially when it comes to raising children. Love includes the daily hugs, snuggles, and kisses, but it also includes the responsibility of parents to teach their children the qualities and virtues necessary to lead fruitful lives. This seems like a taunting task, but there is one basic way to begin that will lead to a host of many other virtues. And that is by teaching children to respect others through good manners, which will also lead towards a virtuous life.
1. Teach by Example, Not only by Words
It is almost impossible to teach a behavior or mannerism, if the teacher does not also exhibit the quality. Children thrive on example. They watch everything we do, whether we like it or not. Parenthood pushes adults into a whole new world where we must face our virtues, or lack thereof, head on. If we expect our children to speak in a respectful tone, then we must show them. This cannot be only one or two times, it must be constant and repetitive, as all good habits are learned through years of practice. Our external behaviors are closely connected to our interior desires. Let’s work on our own virtues in order to become role models for our children.
2. Acts of Love through Acts of Service
Charity towards others does not always come easy for adults or children, those tendencies form Original Sin still linger years later after Baptism. So at an early age, it is necessary to teach our children that true love is ultimately a gift of service. For to love is to serve. True love is not expecting others to serve you – this will never make you happy. We must imitate the love Jesus showed for us by dying on the Cross for our sins. If we desire to raise responsible children who will one day become responsible adults, we must teach them the necessity of serving others whether by praying for others, visiting the sick, baking cookies for a neighbor, folding a basket of laundry to help out their parents, or even giving up that last piece of gum for a younger brother. No matter what vocation our children are called to, they must be able to give up their own desires for those of others – whether they answer a call to a religious vocation, marriage, or living a single life. For the good of society, we must all give of ourselves, so no better time than to teach children at an early age.
3. Manners are Not a Thing of the Past
Unfortunately, something detrimental occurred over the past several decades – the decline of basic, everyday manners. It is ridiculous to assume that basic manners are out of date, in fact, manners are more necessary today than one may assume. The basic manners of “please” and “thank you” are becoming obsolete. It is rare to see children sit quietly at a restaurant without staring at an electronic device. I can’t blame the small child in these situations, I blame the adults. Believe me, I know that no child is perfect, my own included, but if we don’t take the time each day, the child will never learn these common decencies. Start at the beginning, teach them at home and as they age, and simple decencies, such as a smile, saying “good morning”, or shaking hands will be habitual.
4. Repeat, Repeat, & Repeat Some More
Habits will never be formed without repetition. Think how many times you remind yourself to make your bed before it actually becomes a routine. This is the same case with all good habits, which in turn will lead to good virtues. Just as Gretchen Rubin said, “the days are long, but the years are short.” Eventually all those days, which turned into weeks, and eventually years, will lead to a surprise, yet we shouldn’t be that surprised… All those days of teaching and correcting will lead of a moment when you realize that your child has grown into a young adult and your hard work has paid off. There will come a day when you won’t have to remind them to say “thank you” – then take a moment and marvel.
5. Love Your Spouse – Love Your Children
Love your family – with deep love, comes respect. It isn’t always easy to show respect towards those who live under the same roof as us, but it is crucial that we make it a habit. Children grow exponentially when they see the love between adults. Show the same respect and manners to everyone in your family. Treat them as you would treat a stranger, with charity and kindness. There is no greater example than love, and it is our duty to love those whom God has placed so closely in our lives – whether it is easy or not, it is a road that will lead us to higher virtues and in turn will teach our children the same desire – to love.
Let’s raise our children with the desire to give more, rather than to take more and our world will truly prosper for the good of all souls.