Sometimes we listen to statements and are very quick to react to them expressing how wrong they are. For instance, the expression “When the child is good they belong to the daddy, when they are bad, they belong to mummy”. Or the fact that when marriages seem not to be working a woman gets blamed, or why when there is a family feud, women are always on the wrong. The Catechism of the Catholic Church further exacerbates this by explaining that when there is descent into an equal degree of vice, there is always a greater scandal caused by a woman than the man. The so-called “double standard,” which does not exist and which has no ethical foundation, is actually based on the unconscious impulse of man to regard woman as the preserver of ideals, even when he fails to live up to them. It is an annoying generalization, but come to think of it, what would be its origin?
Children learn more from who we are than what we teach. They learn more by example rather than by instruction. According to Judith Graham, Extension human development specialist at Maine University, children learn most things and internalize most teachings at ages 2 to 6 years. This is reiterated by one lady who was giving an inspirational talk about decency in my local church last Sunday the 14th of July 2013. She said that all values should be imparted to a child by the age of 6 years. The first six years is a window of opportunity when a child unquestionably accepts the virtues modeled by parents. At this age, the child internalizes parents’ values: what’s right for the parent becomes right for the child. His/her values, virtuous or not, become part of the child. Between seven and ten years, the child enters the age of moral reasoning and begins to act right because it is the right thing to do which is grounded on that which was taught and modeled by the parents. This means parents must saturate their children with healthy models in the tender years, when children are most impressionable, so they can be discerning about models that come along later. According to Dr. Sears in www.askdrsears.com, raising a moral child means teaching your child to live by the “Golden Rule”. Before your child can “treat others like you want others to treat you,” he has to learn how to empathize, to be able to think through an action before doing it and to judge how the consequences of his action will affect himself and others. He explains that there is a need to raise children the right way. He further states that parents are the child’s first morality teachers. Parents need to raise a child who cares, by being caring as parents or by ensuring that they are with caring caregivers. By this, children learn it is good to help and hold a person in need. They also develop a capacity to care and the ability to feel how another person feels. They also learn how to consider how their actions will affect another person. This inner code of behavior becomes deeply rooted in children and as a result, they develop a healthy sense of guilt, feeling appropriately wrong when they act wrong.
To impart morals, parents must be moral themselves. In the early years children are totally dependent on their caregivers to show the world to them. Your standards automatically become theirs, because they soak up whatever surrounds them. If they see and hear it from their parents, its right, and they store this behavior in their impressionable minds as something worth imitating. Even if you do something you’ve taught them is wrong, such as hit someone, they assume you are right in what you did and the person you hit deserved it. A child will pick up the way of life that (s)he sees a parents living daily at home. They will inspire children to follow their example, be it a valuable or a valueless model. A morally-connected parent appropriately points out to the child what’s right, what’s wrong, and what’s expected. The child trusts that whatever the parent says is gospel. If Dad says hitting is wrong, it’s wrong. If Mom says comforting a hurting child is right, it’s right. The parents are the trusted moral authorities. This implies that bad impressions that parents would prefer their children not to internalize ought to be minimized. These can be obtained from substitute caregivers, neighbors, teachers, older kids, and TELEVISION. Parents need to realize that negative behaviors are easier for a child to copy than positive behavior. This is because positive behaviors are more difficult to imitate, they require maturity and self-control and need to be repeated often to sink in. A few examples, repeated over and over, are all that is necessary to make a lasting impression. A child’s developing mind is like a giant video library. He/she stores all he sees for alter retrieval. Repeated good behavior gets a big “shelf space” in its brain.
Morals are important to a child because they govern the choices they make, not only when they are children, but also later in life. Children should thus be grounded in parental moral values day in and day out, and be continually reinforced as long as parents have an influence on their child. We want our child to do what is right, not just what’s expedient in a given situation. To do this, (s)he must act from inner conviction built up over many years. Values don’t stick if they are tacked onto the child at the last minute, like a holiday decoration, or changed like a piece of clothing, according to the fashion of the day. Once children enter middle childhood-ages six through ten- they are on the receiving end of tremendous peer pressure. If the child does not have his/her own inner guidance system telling him/her which choice to make, (s)he will more readily become a victim of peer pressure. Children are searching for principles. If a strong guidance system prevails at home and within children themselves, they are likely to conform to their parents’ and their own inner morals. They become leaders among their peers instead of followers, setting their own course, staying on it, and swimming upstream even when the prevailing current is against them.
On the other hand, it is not so the morally ungrounded child. He is the product of a home where virtues are not discussed or taught and enters middle childhood like a ship without a rudder or anchor. He drifts in a sea of moral uncertainty, prey to whatever influences come along. Because he has no reference system to use as a standard, he adopts others’ values or he shifts values according to what’s most convenient for solving the problem of the moment. This child drifts into moral relativism: very few things are right or wrong, black or white, but most solutions are shades of gray, and the child takes the path of least resistance or the one that is most popular. This child is at risk because he lacks connection with morally-grounded parents. This makes the child vulnerable to societal ills since he has no foundation to refer to in terms of behavior.
The above literature implies that for a child to be a moral adult, (s)he must receive moral teaching through instruction as a child. It also implies that the adults must be moral themselves so that they can be exemplary models. So what if the parent is not morally right? If they are not so, one thing am sure about is parenting can inspire behavioral change in any person. There is always an innate desire in every parent that their children turn out right and better than them in all aspects.
Why women? The catholic church teaches that the matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; where education does not just signify only academic, but also the moral teachings, and value transfer by example and instruction from parent to child. It is in the bosom of the family that parents are, by word and example, the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. A research carried out by Jonathan Guryan & Erik Hurst of The University of Chicago-NBER and Melissa Kearney of The University of Maryland-NBER on Parental Education and Parental Time with Children reveals that the average child care time is 6.8 hours per week for fathers, compared to 14.0 hours for Mothers. This implies that mothers have twice as much chance as fathers to influence the ultimate behavior of a person. Further to this, the research also indicates that Mothers also spend proportionally more time in routine care of children, while fathers spend proportionally more time in teaching or playing activities (Bryant and Zick, 1993; Pleck, 1997). This implies that they are always in constant touch with their children, can mould their behavior and can notice when things start to go wrong hence can take corrective measures.
While mothers have incredible power to influence our children for good, and to build their self confidence, men too, deeply admire inner serenity and goodness in their wives ( Helen Andelin, 1991). Men joke about their wives being their ‘better half’. This is based on the truth that men sincerely want women to be just that. They place women up on a pedestal where they look up to her for moral guidance and inspiration. Men expect women to be better than them in terms of virtues. For instance, women ought to be more cheerful, kinder, more forgiving, more caring, and more spiritual among other values. Children too need a mother like this, if they are to develop into warm, caring adults.
However, this cannot be deemed successful if the woman does not accept that she is the custodian of morality in the society, so acceptance of this tough task should be of essence. It is tough but didn’t God promise us that we shall never be alone in this? Anthony Synnott once wrote that Woman was always the custodian of human sentiment, morality and honor. And Mahatma Gadhi also wrote Women are special custodians of all that is pure and religious in life. Conservative by nature, if they are slow to shed superstitious habits, they are also slow to give up all that is pure and noble in life. There lies the answer to the why. Let us then embrace the responsibility, and strive to restore that which is lost.
With pursuit of equity and the instillation of feminism ideas in the society today, motherhood has lost this ultimate goal of forming a society that is value filled and morally upright. It then is important for that which has been lost to be restored. Women must rise and try to reclaim this uprightness that is so elusive in this time. This can be achieved through the following ideas proposed by Bishop Fulton J Sheen in the book Man and Woman by (1952).
By restoring constancy in love:
Love today is fickle, although it was meant to be permanent. Love has only two words in its vocabulary: “You” and “Always:” “You,” because love is unique; and “Always,” because love is enduring. Love never says, “I will love you for two years and six days.” Love inspires in one the desire to achieve a situation of “goodness for all” including the self. It is in this love that one learns that doing something that will compromise the self and others is wrong and doing something that is inspired by love is almost always right. Parents must practice love. They must be love in action for the children turn out “great” as they initially desire. This may include sacrifice, in terms of money and behavior. It means sacrificing that which I would want to do, inspired by my desire for freedom, for the sake of the goodness of this child God has blessed me with. For instance, I may love drinking, and I love drinking late. Since I do not want my child not to start drinking at the age of sixteen, and of course be home by 6pm, I will have to sacrifice my outings and be home by 6pm.
By restoring respect for personality:
Man generally speaks of things: woman generally speaks of persons. Since man is made to control nature and to rule over it, his principal concern is with some thing. Woman is closer to life, and its prolongation; her life centers more on personality. Even when falling from feminine heights, her gossip is about people. Since the whole present political and economic world is gauged to the destruction of personality, God in His Mercy is trumpeting once more to The Woman to “make a man,” to remake personality. Respect for personality, even the personal self, inspires in us to always do things that will make us and others happy. I do not know of any moral activity or good virtues that make others feel bad. Even corrective measures that always beget spite from the corrected are with good intentions. The twentieth-century resurgence of devotion to Mary is God’s way of pulling the world away from the primacy of the economic to the primacy of the human, from the things to life and machines to men. The praise of the woman in the crowd who heard Our Lord preaching and exclaimed: “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee and the breasts that nursed Thee” (Luke 11:27), was typically feminine. And the answer of Our Lord was equally significant: “Yea! Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” (Luke 11:28.) This, then, is what devotion to Mary does in this troubled hour: it restores personality by inspiring it to keep the Word of God.
By infusing the virtue of Purity into souls:
Miriam Webster defines Purity as freedom from sin or guilt; innocence and; chastity. Purity also means freedom from adulteration or contamination or freedom from immorality, especially of a sexual nature. Teach your children, the belief in purity of body, mind and soul (Emmeline Pankhurst). If purity of mind, body and soul is encouraged right from birth and modeled all through, then our society would be a very good place to live in.
Does this mean that if children are taught the right things will always turn out right? No, but even as they do wrong, just like every once in a while we remember our mothers voice telling us that it is wrong to eat sugar or throw stones at a passerby, they will remember all they were taught when they were young. Their conscience will bite them, and more often than not, they will end up doing the right thing; that which they were taught it is right. Does it also mean that if the right things were not taught they will end up bad? No, people will always mould themselves to become the best version of themselves, and by the virtue of the fall of the first man, who by eating the fruit had the capacity to tell what is right and wrong, through a continuous effort, (s)he will mould the self to do right. It will be harder because there is no benchmark that is intrinsic that (s)he will look upto, but, will eventually make it.