Teach children by example
LETTERS, FAXES & EMAIL New Year, ‘New Culture’; Parents, Students In Joint Effort –
DAILY NATION, Tuesday, September 5, 2017
WE WANT OUR CHILDREN to flourish, to live well and fare well – to be happy.
Happiness, as Aristotle long ago pointed out, resides in activity, both physical and mental. It resides in doing things that one can take pride in doing well, and hence that one can enjoy doing.
It is a great mistake to identify enjoyment with mere amusement or relaxing or being entertained. Those who have missed the joy of work, of a job well done, have missed something very important. This applies to our children, too.
How do we help prepare our children for lives like that? As always, the keys are practice and example: practice in doing various things that require a level of effort and engagement compatible with some personal investment in the activity, and the examples of the adults in their own lives.
The first step in doing things is learning how to do them. Good habits of personal hygiene, and helping with meals or bed-making or laundry or caring for pets, or any other such household chores, all require learning. All can be done well or poorly. All can be done cheerfully and with pride, or grudgingly and with distaste. And which way we do them is really up to us. It is a matter of choice. That is perhaps the greatest insight that the ancient Roman Stoics championed for humanity. There are no menial jobs, only menial attitudes. And our attitudes are up to us.
Parents show their children how to enjoy doing the things that have to be done by working with them, by encouraging and appreciating their efforts, and by the witness of their own cheerful and conscientious example. And since the possibilities for happy and productive lives are largely opened up for youth by the quality and extent of their education, parents who work most effectively at providing their offspring with what it takes to lead flourishing lives take education very seriously.
Work is effort applied towards some end. The most satisfying work involves directing our efforts towards achieving ends that we ourselves endorse as worthy expressions of our talent and character.
Volunteer service work, if it is genuinely voluntary and exercises our talents in providing needed service, is typically satisfying in this way. The youth need experience of this kind of work. Perhaps so do we all.