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Community Voices: Growing up is hard – a parent’s perspective

Growing up is tough but that’s life. We can choose to grow a little bit wiser or retreat and stay children forever.

Let me start by saying I’ve seen many moms over and over post or say how they want their babies or young kids to never grow up or stay this little forever. A quick Google search also pulls up an array of songs about parents wanting their kids to stay young. While I fully understand the sentiment of their statement and wanting to hold onto these precious years that go by so fast, it’s actually unwise to not want kids to grow up into productive citizens.

Everyone who enters this world is given an opportunity to make the most of it in his or her own way. Success comes in varying amounts so while not everyone is meant to have a public profile or have a high-ranking status, they can make a difference in their own little world. We can start by embracing the fact that life stops for no one and we must prepare our children to become citizens who have an impact on one another in a positive way.

Preparing children for adulthood is no easy feat and there is certainly no one way that is perfect or better than another. Generation after generation will tell you their own story and their ways of parenting. As a new mom myself, I am by far no expert and am learning the ropes as I go.

Naturally as children mature, we expect more from them as does our society. “Good citizens are supposed to not only take care of themselves, but also contribute to the well-being of the people and the communities around them. Teaching your kid a concept as complex and selfless as that is no small task. Especially when you’re so deep in the parenting weeds that you can’t even think about what your kids will be like twenty minutes from now, much less what kind of adults they’ll grow up to be twenty years into the future,” according to an article by PBS Parents.

Forging the path towards good citizenship is necessary as we help them develop strong character traits while helping to deter weakening emotionality, crimes and violence. I strongly believe character building education should be used more by families and even educators. This is only something that some people teach but no studies showing how they reduce risk factors have been founded as far as I know. It is essentially teaching children moral, ethical and socially acceptable standards of teaching. By reinforcing and teaching traits to build character, risk factors are likely to lessen.

“Most of the risk factors identified do not appear to have a strong biological basis. Instead, it is theorized, they result from social learning or the combination of social learning and biological processes. This means that violent youths who have violent parents are far more likely to have modeled their behavior on their parents’ behavior — to have learned violent behavior from them — than simply to have inherited it from them. Likewise, society’s differing expectations of boys and girls — expecting boys to be more aggressive, for example — can result in learned behaviors that increase or decrease the risk of violence,” according to studies from the book Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General.

So, what are some steps to building good character traits in our children as they become future prosperous citizens? The following ideas are from a variety of sources including PBS Parents and the Department of Education.

Young children are naturally empathetic to those around them. It’s a good idea to help them develop their empathy skills by talking about feelings, practice role playing and use discipline as an opportunity for teaching by explaining the importance of rules. Praise kids when they do good things such as being honest or helping someone out.

Encouraging children and young adults to volunteer is also a way to help promote good citizenship. However, don’t just tell them to volunteer but volunteer with them or let them see you volunteer or helping others in some way or fashion.

Helping your young one practice compassion and good citizenship is not a one-and-done deal. It takes consistency and being a good role model by displaying these attributes yourself. It also takes humility to be honest when we mess up. Because honestly, we’re not perfect and we’re going to not always be honest, respectable or kind.

“Throughout history, character education has been the shared responsibility of parents, teachers and members of the community, who come together to support positive character development,” according to the Department of Education. Remember the old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child?” It still lies true today. Parents need the support of their community, friends and educators to support our children’s well-being. As a reminder, it’s not up to the school to raise the child.

Though it’s an obvious statement, the children and young adults are the future. Their minds are constantly developing and easily influenced by a wide array of stimuli. They look to us – whether they want to admit it or not – for guidance, wisdom, actions and reactions and structure. Let’s allow them to grow up successfully (however that may look for each person).

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