"Nothing is more important for the public wealth than to form and train up youth in wisdom and virtue."
It seems one of the most perplexing questions of this society these days is: "How do we bring up our kids in the midst of all the problems that we have out there?"
Make no mistake about it, we do have problems, and there are a lot of them. We've got drugs, we've got cars that go at break-neck speeds, we've got booze that our children can drink when they get into these cars, and we've got teenage suicide and all the teenage pregnancies. All of this is happening in good families!
So, what do we do? How do we bring up our kids in the midst of all this? Some of the experts claim we say "no" too often to our kids - while others claim we don't say "no" often enough. We can go to the library and read what they have to say. But the problem is, there are so many conflicting opinions. So, what in the world do we do? Who do we believe?
Well, I have some ideas for you. Ideas that, in my opinion can stop the hurt. Ideas that can make life a little less complicated when it comes to raising your children. Ideas that could eliminate a lot of stress in the relationship with your children.
Actually, they are really not my ideas, and they certainly are not new. They've been around a long time. The problem is, too many of us have just sort of forgotten about them. These are the ideas I want to share with you.
You may agree with what I have to say or you may disagree. If you disagree, that's OK. I certainly respect your right to feel the way you do. I just ask you give it some deep thought and think about it with an open mind. Below are the ideas. In addition to food, shelter and clothing, there are four other things our children need desperately - four other things so many of them are not getting.
Our children need us to show them we love them and to tell them we love them. They need us to put our arms around them and hug them, and to tell them they are a very important part of our lives. It's important that we communicate this to our children.
Actually, that's an understatement. It's crucial we communicate this message to our children.
I'm not just talking to the mothers, I'm talking to the fathers, as well. I know; I've worked around men and I've heard all the tough talk - things like, "Well, we men don't show that kind of emotion, that's for their mother to do." If that's the way any of you men feel, then you are totally wrong. Gentlemen, your kids need you to put your arms around them and hug them just as much as they need it from their mother.
Do you ever notice when you watch a professional football game how they act when they make a touchdown? All these big, burly men go around hugging each other.
That's OK if that's what they want to do. But, I wonder how many of these big, burly men can go home and hug their very own children.
You see, drugs are not the problem. Alcohol is not the problem. They are only symptoms of the real problem. The problem in the majority of cases is that children feel unloved - unwanted. Please be assured I'm not just making that up. I've heard too many people who work with problem children say the same thing.
Now, is that the case in every situation where there are problems? Certainly not. There are exception to every rule. But in the majority of cases, that is the problem. So think about that.
We've got to give them our attention. We've got to spend some time with our children. I know, we're all too busy. We've got to work and make a living. I understand that; I also had to work to support a family. But, let me put it this way because it's so important: If you don't have time to spend with your children, then it's crucial that you that you make some changes so that you do have time.
Someone once said, "If you haven't time to help youngsters find the right way in life, somebody with more time will help them find the wrong way."
Because I don't know you're particular situation, I can't tell you how you should go about it. And I know there are situations where it can be very difficult. So I'm not putting anyone down whose job situation is such that it's almost impossible. But I think it would be a good idea to sit down and give it some serious thought; maybe you could come up with something. Look at your schedule to see where you can fit your children in. Somehow you have to come up with something, because your children need you.
We've got to set guidelines for them. Our kids have got to know when they are in bounds and when they are out of bounds. And don't we all? Contrary to what they may be telling you, they are screaming for guidelines. If anyone finds that hard to believe, go to the library and get one of Dr. Benjamin Spock's latest books. Yes, I know - I said his latest books because they, in my opinion, give a different message than his earlier books did. Or read James Dobson's book, "Dare to Discipline." See what they have to say about it.
And I'm old fashioned enough to believe it's OK to tell our kids certain things are just morally wrong, period. Now I know I might get a little flack on that. I know what some of the "new age" thinking is on that. Some are saying we should leave that up to the kids; we should let them figure out that sort of thing for themselves. Well, all I can say to that is to take a look around - take a good look. See what's going on in our schools. See what's going on outside of our schools. Do you think that they have it all figured out?
Some time ago, I was going through the channels on the TV and I got the tail-end of a program that I wished I would have watched from the beginning. It was called "On Values," by Peggy Noonan. I would like to share with you some of the things that were said by the person she was interviewing.
These are not his exact words, because I didn't write it down as he was talking. But, basically this is what he said. "The buzz-word these days is individual freedom. The problem is that when we have too much freedom, we sometimes choose over-indulgence instead of self-control. Now, of course, our freedom should be cherished and we should be thankful that we have it. But, freedom without responsibility will destroy or society."
He went on to say, "It's too bad these days when one speaks in public, he/she must be careful as to what he says. That is, words like 'morality,' like 'responsibility;' words like 'self control;' we must be very careful where we use these words these days. And isn't it a shame, because these are good words. Our society will be better when those who speak in public have the courage to use these 'out-dated' words. In America today, we have over one million people in prison. It seems that the number has increased when we stopped using these words."
It certainly gives us something to think about doesn't it?
Dr. Benjamin Spock, who in his time was one of the leading authorities on raising children, says in one of his books, "Child Psychology cannot substitute for morality." Remember, this is not one of our religious leaders saying this. It is a child psychologist. An excellent book on this subject is Dobson's "The New Dare To Discipline." One important fact to remember about setting guidelines is this: If we say one thing to our children, but do another , then our actions will speak so loudly they will not hear one word we say! You know what I mean.
Adult role model
In addition to good guidelines, our children need a good, adult role model. Someone they can look up to; someone they can admire. A hero! That's what they need! And I'll guarantee you one thing, your kids are going to find a hero. They are either going to find it in you, or they will find it in someone else. Now that could be a problem, and the problem is: You don't know who that might be. There's a good chance they may find it in someone who is not good for them.
You don't have to take my word for that. Turn on your TV and grab hold of the remote. Start going through the channels. Take a good look at who some of these "heroes" might be! Is this what you want for your kids? Or would you rather be their hero? You can be if you really want to.
So, how do we become their hero? Now, that's a good question isn't it? And I really can't give you a definite answer to that question, because every person has a different personality and disposition. Besides, you may already know the answer for your own particular situation.
If you don't know the answer, I'm going to suggest a way to find out. What I think that all of us should do once in a while is to get off by ourselves, some place where it's quiet and where we can be alone. And then we remove our mask (we all have one), we lay aside the role that we play in society. Then ask yourself some serious questions about your relationship with your children, your relationship with your spouse, your relationship with the world. And then, by being brutally honest with yourself, you see what kind of answers you come up with. And then you do your best to start living by those answers.
Someone once said that the solutions to all of our problems are within us. Oliver Windell Holmes said, "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."
If someone said to me, "Frank, when you die, if there was one message that you could leave to the world, what would it be?" I'd say: Love your children, give them your attention, set good guidelines for them and, for goodness' sake, be their hero!
Victor Frankl said it best in his book "Man's Search for Meaning." Frankl was a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp. And, of course, none of us can imagine the agony, the horror and the indignities and suffering he and others like him went through. But in the midst of all this, in his book, he says, "And suddenly a thought transfixed me; for the first time in my life I saw the truth as set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth: that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love."
In his book, "Healing Words," Dr. Larry Dossey says, "If scientists suddenly discovered a drug that was as powerful as love in creating health, it would be heralded as a medical break-through and marketed overnight." Exaggerated statement? I think not. Think about it. What I have always thought was that if we in this world don't feel like showing love and compassion to one another, then if at least we didn't go out of our way to treat each other so horribly, it certainly would be a remarkable improvement. I agree with Dossey. I don't think he makes an exaggerated statement.
So, that's where it's all at. That is what will produce peace and harmony in our families. That is what will produce peace and harmony in our world. Not our stockpile of weapons. Not our advance in military technology (although I'm not suggesting that we go back to the bow and arrow). Neither am I suggesting our military armament is unnecessary. Unfortunately, it is. We as a nation have found that out.
But kindness and compassion and respect for each other, that will work. And besides, isn't that the way we human beings ought to treat each other, anyway? And how do you and I accomplish this task in our world? We do it by starting it right in our own families. A tall order? Too much to ask? Well, as someone once said, "It's better to light a tiny little candle than to curse the darkness."