This I Believe

Robert - Evansville, Indiana
Entered on August 29, 2008
Themes: parenthood
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This I believe: The old saying “Children are our Future� is backwards. Parents are our future. Without parents committed to the demanding, difficult and sometimes unpleasant duties of parenthood our future cannot be secured. The life lessons our youngsters learn today that determine the kind of adults they will be tomorrow.

I fear many of these lessons are both not well taught and not well learned. In the course of my career in the legal system I have witnessed the unfortunate consequences of lives lived without moral restraint, respect for others and the capacity for self examination.

We all hear of the spectacular cases, the dead infants, the abused toddlers, and the child who kills at a tender age and we wonder about the parents. But these cases are rare and though memorable are only extreme examples of the problem. In fact, because these high profile situations are usually so horrific it’s easy to disassociate ourselves from them. This makes it too easy to not recognize and acknowledge the deficiencies in those situations that could be valuable life lessons for us and our children.

Parents need to instill in their child a sense of moral restraint. That is, the principle that some acts are wrong and should not be done simply for that reason. This includes not minimizing the wrongful act when committed or worse, minimizing the harm caused to others by the wrongful behavior. Both of these sentiments are frequent visitors to our Courts.

Parents should demand that children learn how to show respect for others. The ability to empathize with another’s plight is the mark of a mature, stable, moral adult.

Parents should teach children the act of self-examination. By this I mean the ability to see yourself as others see you and more importantly, to understand the consequences that your behavior may have for others.

None of this is easy. Overcoming the notion in today’s society that the world is about you and your wants and feelings takes committed effort. The culture we live in sends young people many messages that are both counter-productive and self-destructive. To resist these influences and teach our youngsters the important virtues of a moral life requires us to develop or enhance these virtues in ourselves and appreciate them in others.

Parenting, it is said, is the most difficult job we will do for which we will receive little or no training. Most of that we get comes from our life experiences with our own parents. When we pass on the best of those values we succeed in fulfilling our duties as parents.

The challenges that each generation must meet are significant. The ability to prevail in the face of those challenges comes from adults who are mature, stable and forthright. The need for forming those adults is now. What we do as parents today will determine our future.

Parenting can bring your highest joys, deepest sorrows and most enduring memories. Done properly, it provides the capacity for achievements of the future.