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Raising Our Children's Character
Rebecca LaSavio

I ran across a startling quote in a book I was reading recently:

“‘Some people are growing children, not raising children, and there’s a big difference'
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, people grow hogs. You give them a place to live; give them all the food they need to keep growing, and make sure that they don’t get sick on you. With children, you got to raise them. Of course, you feed and clothe them. But a parent has to take the time to teach them right and wrong. A parent has to discipline them. And a parent got to be there to listen to them, help them with their problems. I think most people do their best, but there are some parents these days that are growing children, not raising children.’”

-George Dawson, Life is So Good

As homeschoolers, we have the privilege of overseeing not just our children’s education, but their full character development. Personally, I think this is our hardest, and most critical, job. So take a moment and ask yourself: Are you meeting your children’s physical and mental needs only (growing), or are you feeding their characters (raising)? As George said, most people are doing their best. Sometimes we need to take a step back and contemplate: How are our children doing? Have we noticed selfishness that needs some attention? Are they respectful? Do they show bravery when called for? Do they show a reasonable amount of empathy for their age and maturity? Are they thankful, or is there whining that needs curbing? Do they demonstrate a solid work ethic and diligence?

These traits won’t just naturally happen in our kids. We need to help them grow. We can read good books that have characters that demonstrate and bring these characteristics to life. Little Britches presents our kids with an example of a hard-working, diligent kid who helps his family and overcomes many obstacles with bravery. The book or movie Wonder teaches our kids to value a person for who they are, rather than how they look. The story demonstrates kindness.

We can avoid shows and books that glorify bad traits. For example, we stopped watching the cartoon Caillou years ago, because Caillou was whiny and my littles imitated him. IYKYK I am also sensitive to shows that “expect” siblings to always be at odds with each other because I expect my kids to learn to live in peace and to love one another. It’s a tough, ongoing lesson so I don’t want to feed the “easy” negative idea that it’s not worth trying.

Here’s the catch: We can’t teach character traits that we don’t possess ourselves. So as we take an inventory of our kids, we are forced to do an uncomfortable inventory of ourselves. I can’t teach my kids patience if I don’t demonstrate it. Ouch. I can’t expect them to be diligent if I give up on projects or lessons when they’re hard. Ooph. But if I am willing to continue to grow, I give my kids a great example to follow, and they know I’m not asking something of them I’m not willing to do myself.

Not only do we sometimes have to be uncomfortable ourselves in this process, but we also have to be willing to allow our children to be uncomfortable as they grow. As parents, we don’t want our kids to struggle, but there will never be a safer place for them to learn these lessons than with us. If we don’t teach them good character traits, the world will. And the world won’t necessarily be as gentle or thoughtful as we would like.

Bringing up children is a big responsibility. Our job is so much bigger than just keeping them alive. There is plenty to prepare them for as they head toward adulthood. We even have the potential to affect generations after us and that is a sobering thought. Growing hogs would be easier, but raising children with strong characters is one of the finest gifts we could give our kids–and the world around them.

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