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Encouraging Strength of Character: Face Life’s Giants

Am I crazy because I don’t want my 8-year-old to be aware of pole dancing just yet? Why does my six-year-old need to be excluded from class when they watch movies? Is lying to parents the new norm?  Life at school isn’t always easy for my children, or any child for that matter. There’s a wide variation of standards and ideas at school; however, this too, is a replica of life.  So, I’ve been figuring out ways to equip my children to be strong in the face of the many giants of life.

I have a few choices: I can pull my kids away from any situation that might bring them harm;  I can let them find their way; or I can teach my children to stand up for what they believe and what it right. 

The latter is what I’ve chosen and I see it coming to fruition in three ways: 

1. Allow my children to have a voice. 

2. Teach my children strength of character. 

3. Put events into perspective.

Voice 

For my children to truly be strong in character, I believe they need to have a voice at home.  The reason for this is I don’t want to force my children to believe certain things or behave in a certain way.  I would rather nurture them and show by example, so they can develop into who they are rather than what I think they need to be.  In reality, I’ve found this to be easier said than done.  You see, when I’m stressed, I tend to be a wee bit controlling.  {You can take another breath now kids.}

To make this achievable for me, I’ve broken it into two areas.

1. Open communication: I strive to be approachable so my children feel free to come and ask me questions.  The challenge is to NOT overreact.  For example, read this post:  I Have Three Crushes.  I want my children to know they can ask me ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING!  And I mean that. I will honestly answer any question they have on any topic to satisfy their curiosity. 

2. Space to make mistakes:  I find it easier to pull my children up on mistakes and make sure they don’t it again.  It’s harder to watch them makes mistakes and learn from it.  This takes time (and patience) and is relative to the respective child and their level of maturity.  In the post Self-Regulation, Contration, Anxiety and Video Games, I discuss the gradual transition from sole dependency to sole independence.  This transition is a key in learning maturity.

Strength of Character 

Strength of character can be defined as the ability to block out external attempts to influence you.  I see this as an invaluable quality. Obviously, influence can be both positive or negative but having the ability to resist influences if chosen, is a helpful tool to take throughout life.

Perspective

Things are rarely as they seem.  I would rather give a person the benefit of the doubt rather than jump to conclusions.  As I train my children to stand up for what they think is right, I keep things in perspective so I don’t breed a spirit of judgement.

Example 1

My daughter did not know “pole dancing” existed.  You see, I’m careful about what she sees because I don’t want her to be exposed to overly sexualised images.  I truly believe children shouldn’t have to digest and try and sort out what it all means.  How can a child have the freedom to learn, explore and grow when they are bombarded by adult concepts? My daughter did not know about pole dancing but now she does.  A friend at school was telling her about it and gave her a brief (and disturbingly graphic) demonstration.  My daughter was mortified!  She came home and told me so we talked about it.  I would rather have the conversation with a 15-year-old but the information was there and I had to put it into context for her. 

Voice: She talked to me about it.

Stand strong: Exposing my anxious daughter to adult concepts before she is mature can be damaging. So, my daughter walks away when someone is talking about “rude” stuff.

Perspective:  It would be easy for me to say, “Never go near that girl again!”  How very sad for the girl!   Instead, my daughter walks away when girls at school start talking about these sort of issues. Yes, there have been times my daughter is excluded because “she’s not allowed to listen to sex talk” but she knows what is best for her and is strong enough to follow through.  Teasing can happen but in my experience, when you hold your ground, your peers respect you for it.  I want my daughter to be able to protect her body, emotions and mind.

Example 2

When her teacher put a movie on, My six-year-old asked to do a different activity.  I was rather astounded .  You see, our family decided the children will not watch movies we haven’t watched at home unless they check with me.  This was the first time this had happened at school (and we hadn’t discussed this situation beforehand).  I was astounded (I shouldn’t have been) that my daughter stood up in front of a teacher and followed through on a rule we established at home.

Voice: You know, if my daughter came home and said she watched the movie because she wasn’t sure what to do, I would have understood. I was rather flawed at her level of maturity about the situation and her ability to stand strong without prompting from me. 

Stand Strong: When I was quizzing my daughter about what happened she told me she stated our family rules and asked if she could please do another activity.  There was no disrespect for the teacher, only logic and reason.  I don’t think children are given enough credit for their ability to make decisions. 

Perspective: From memory, I think the movie was Alvin and the Chipmunks.  And if I had been notified by the teacher beforehand, I would have probably told my daughter that it was okay to stay and watch it.  Some may think this to be extreme but they are not the ones who have to be up all night with a child who is sensitive.  I really don’t see the need for watching movies at school anyway.

Example 3

It was lunch time and my daughter opened her lunch box.  The pear I had placed there was terribly bruised.  The children arround  tried to persuade her to throw it away because “your Mum will never know”.  My daughter (and I’m proud) said that she didn’t lie to her parents and brought the fruit home.

Voice: I strive to be a reasonable parent.  When my daughter came home and told me how bruised her pear was I was like, “Sorry babe; throw it out honey.”  I was glad she didn’t feel the need to lie to me. 

Stand Strong:  I would understand too if, to keep up appearances, my daughter, threw the fruit away and then came home and told me about it.  But she didn’t. 

Perspective:  There have been times when my daughter has brought unbruised fruit home just because she didn’t feel like eating it at school.  I chat her about nutrition and why fruit is important.  My daughter understands this and eats the fruit for afternoon tea before the regular afternoon treats.

I trust building strength of character in my children from a young age will afford them the power to say “no” when they are older and Life throws them trickier issues than bruised fruit.

This is NOT a look-at-me-I’m-a-great-parent post.  TRUST ME, some days I’m really not.  However, I believe it’s possible to be a flawed parent (that’s me), and still have a relationship of trust, love and honesty between parent and child.  I figure if my children have a confidant in me and know I will listen to what they say; if I give them the space to grow,  learn and mature — all along with loving, caring and disciplining them — I’m going a long way to facilitating their journey to adulthood.

Has your child ever surprised you with their strength of character?

External Links 

Love this verse: 1 Timothy 4:12

Letting Children Be Children: Stopping the Sexualisation of Children in Australia 

Bully Blocking: School Bullying 

Times Square Claremont Bares All

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14 Comments

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    Debbie
    November 8, 2010 at 10:04 am

    It’s great that you’re teaching your children these values. So many parents let their kids find their own way, but it’s SO important to teach them to stand up for what’s right and also the reason why. I agree it’s something that can’t be forced upon them – that tends to have the opposite effect.

    It’s frightening that childhood innocence is threatened so much younger these days (we drive past a brothel on the way to our post box….you can imagine what I’ve had to try and explain….) But having a supportive home environment with strong family values will definitely help build strength of character. You should be so proud of your children!

  • Reply
    Christine Bunn
    November 8, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Good one Kelly! I have to agree with the watching of movies in school time. My children come home and tell me they have watched movies at school on a regular basis. They are going to a private school and it seems to be acceptable amongst the teachers. I believe there are so many more creative activities our children can be doing : eg reading, building with lego drawings playing board games. I just don’t get it. What has happened to the hands on?

  • Reply
    Michelle
    November 8, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Great post – so much good info
    thank you – once again!

  • Reply
    Julie
    November 8, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Thanks Kelly – I will have to read this post again and again. Inspirational!

  • Reply
    Meegan
    November 8, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Excellent post Kelly (as always!)…
    I am striving to let my children BE children for as long as possible. Sadly, I don’t even like my five year old watching the news… He remembers all the bad things but none of the (very few) good things!

    xo

  • Reply
    Colin SuperParents
    November 9, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I am with you 100% of the way, Kel.

    I have taken a very Machiavellian approach to what my children are exposed to. For me, it’s not like I want to restrict them and control them until they’re adults. I want to have the ability to nurture the…n and to be able to guide them bit by bit for areas where I think will help them develop a great moral and ethical compass later on in life.

    Early on I restricted William from watching TV or reading newspapers or other news based publications without me. I’ve since eased up a lot as we’ve talked about many things pertaining to the woes of the world. It’s almost like the sex talk – except it’s to cover a much wider range of topics. But I’ve enjoyed presenting an overall picture to him, and to present my own opinions.

    I don’t think my children have any problems with strength of character, nor do I have to sweat too much about talking to them about the decisions they make in life. Aside from everything they are, and everything we’re doing … they don’t have to go very far to see models of two adults with a really healthy approach to life – my wife and I. Fingers crossed we’ve got them off to a good start. 🙂

    Colin

  • Reply
    Rooh
    November 20, 2010 at 6:52 am

    I just stumbled upon your blog, and was going through some of your older posts when I came across this one. My daughter is the same as yours – not fond of movies, and we don’t encourage them at home. In JK, her teacher showed the class The Lion King – such scary topics for a child that had never seen a movie before!

    She’s now in grade one, but we still don’t encourage movies. I know she could be ostrasized for her choice, but I’m okay with it and I respect it. I actually hope my other two children (both boys) will be the same. One is very sensitive (4 years old), and the other is showing a tendency to be the same (2 years old).

    It’s nice to read that others have the same kind of television/movie rules!

    Good for you for helping instill quality character in your children 🙂

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