Monday, May 28, 2012

Be Deliberate About Growing Virtues in Kids

Photo credit: Lel4nd via photo pin cc
Take a Lesson from Life
Is your child on a sports team?  

Parents who desire their child to develop extensive athletic skills are often quite deliberate about signing their child up for sports leagues of increasing difficulty and competitiveness as the child grows. They desire their child to have the best coach, be on the best team, and compete at the highest level. They encourage the child to participate in the sport at every opportunity.

Is your child in a dance or instrument class?

The development of both of these talents is often an incredibly deliberate, well-thought-out process by parents. They seek the best studio or the best piano teacher. They enforce practice, practice, and more practice.

In the same way, teachers who desire their students to develop complex mathematical skills are quite deliberate about designing a curriculum that builds from one skill to the next, making it possible for the students to grow in their knowledge and capabilities. They enforce homework policies the provide the students opportunities to practice the skills they have taught.

Be Deliberate About the Development of Virtues
Now consider: Would you like your child (or students) to be wise? Understanding? Courageous? Holy? Do you pray that your child (or students) will grow into a faithful adult? A person of hope? An individual who gives from a generous heart? A saint?

If so, are you working as deliberately to develop these gifts and virtues?  Sometimes it's a lot easier to be deliberate about developing a child's athletic, performance, or academic skills, than it is about developing their character, their morality, or their faith.

Some parents can say, "Well, I send my child to Catholic school," just as some Catholic school teachers can say, "I teach a religion class each day." These efforts are admirable and worthy of respect.  However, each parent and each teacher needs to ask himself or herself, "Is this sufficient for the development of virtue in my child (students)?" Does this demonstrate the same level of commitment to developing virtue as does the parent who pushes a child into club sports, or the teacher who carefully monitors each child's math competencies?

Don't get me wrong-- I'm not advocating the kind of intense, high-pressure, stress-inducing parenting that can sometimes infiltrate youth sports programs, dance studios, and the like. Anything, taken to the extreme, can become a negative. What I am advocating is that each reader evaluate his or her own dedication and active involvement in the development of virtue in his or her children (students). 

Do we sometimes think the virtues will just happen? Do we leave them up to God? Do we feel better-equipped to coach our child (student) in soccer or math than in faithfulness, temperance, or courage? (I would argue, as complex as the math has gotten nowadays, teaching the virtues is much easier!)

In subsequent posts, I'll examine some of the virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the ways we as teachers and parents can be a little more deliberate about developing them in our children and students. Sometimes, just a bit more energy and effort can make all the difference in the world! If we are to grow faith-filled kids, can we risk any less?

For more about the virtues and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

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