It's not exactly news, but sometimes we forget ...
We all want our children to grow up to be happy people. Although the advertisements we are constantly exposed to would tell us that happiness comes from having the latest and best gadgets, and other sources tell us it comes from self-indulgence, wise men and women have known for thousands of years (going back to Aristotle and before) that true happiness requires the practice of virtue. Virtues, habits of behavior by which we go against our impulses to do something of greater value, lead to fulfillment and success in what really matters for us as human beings.
There are many virtues, such as patience or fortitude or the other cardinal virtues, and it’s not enough to have just one or two; we need to try to be well-rounded and balanced. Here are a few virtues that it is essential to learn from early on:
Temperance: The impulses of anger can cause us to make serious mistakes. Nerves have never been good counselors, and difficulties should not be resolved hot. When your child feels anger or sadness, teach them to let some time pass before making decisions, to temper their nerves, and to stay calm. One thing is to “pay attention to the heart” and quite another to get carried away by anger, fear or sadness. Temperance is moderation and containment. This can only be achieved by remaining calm.
Silence: This includes active listening. Learning to listen in silence is fundamental, as is learning to listen to ourselves—and this is only achieved through silence. Children struggle to keep their minds quiet; they tend to be active by nature. Learning to be silent is as important for kids as it is for adults. There are activities and games that can help your child learn to meditate, such as the Montessori Silence Game, or the “mindfulness” technique.
Order: If a child learns to respect order in a physical space, an interior order will also be achieved. Children who are neat with their material things tend to have a greater facility in ordering their thoughts, which will help them visualize their objectives and to better accomplish them.
Reflection: Life is built on the basis of constant decision making. Hence, it is important to teach children to resolve conflicts and make decisions, activities that require frequent reflection.
Industriousness: Effort and perseverance are essential values that will help children achieve their goals. Objectives are often not achieved in a first attempt, but after many failed attempts. Hence the importance of teaching children to give their best effort in all their chores and duties. A further goal is to help them have personal satisfaction for a job well done.
Sincerity: This is an essential value to maintain both inner peace and good relationships with others. It’s one of the most important virtues for achieving inner happiness. Teach your child not to lie, even though they sometimes are capable of getting away with it, because whoever lies to others, lies above all to himself. Sincerity is the foundation for mutual trust.
Justice: Justice is difficult to achieve. This includes empathy, of course: the capacity of being able to understand and feel what someone else is going through. Teach your child to be fair through your own example. Although we already know that the sense of justice in children is sometimes selfish, little by little, with guidance, they can learn how justice should apply to everyone.
Moderation: Excess can never be good. We all know the famous sentence of Aristotle: “virtue is found in the mean.” Moderation is a good way to promote justice in our relationship with others.
Humility: Pride is never a good counselor. It makes us forget where we came from, the difficulties we had to go through, and the mistakes we had to make in order to learn what we know today. Help your child remember that every teacher was once a disciple.
Many parenting techniques and fads come and go, but whatever method we use, teaching our children virtue is a perennial and indispensable element of raising happy, balanced kids.