How are people’s characters formed?  How does a person develop a strong and virtuous character?

How do we instill character strengths in our children?  Can this be done in these times?

Perplexing questions to be sure.

 

As a social critic, here is one of my observations:  Millennials in the US seem to lack character strengths.  (Doubt this?  Wait until we have a real crisis in this country and see what happens.)

But is this their fault?

It seems to me that characters are largely formed (for better or for worse) through experiences.  Sadly, given man’s flawed (or, if you prefer, fallen) nature, it is through difficult, painful experiences that character strengths are often forged.

In the case of many young people in the US, they were raised in single parent households or even with 2 parents in the home, their parents were like absentee landlords who did not take an active interest in what went on in their children’s lives.  (Even more onus falls on parents these days as the government or public education system in the US is beyond repair and is not developing critical thinking skills in students.  Thus, it is all up to parents, sorry to say.)  Often times, in such family situations, there is not enough emphasis placed on discipline for the children.  Children that grow up lacking self-discipline often are miserable themselves and tend to make those around them miserable as well.  Children that have not known disappointment nor self-sacrifice growing up often have difficulty coping with disappointment and making sacrifices in their adult lives.

My advice for parents is to consider the long run and not just the short term horizon.  Sure, you can pacify your children by giving them everything they want on a regular basis, but what is that doing for them in the long run? Spoiling them?  Alas, many parents fall into the trap of substituting fancy toys for a real concern for their children.  Spending time with your children is more important than giving them the sundry tech gadgets they feel they cannot live without.  It is your responsibility as parents to structure the home environment your children live in.  Instruct them in what is right and what is wrong.  Do not leave that to the clowns in the schools.  Make your children be accountable for their behavior at home.  Give them household chores.  Yes, there is no guarantee that your children will take to the disciplined, structured environment you can give them – many children especially during their teen years are rebellious –  but that does not negate your responsibility to make the proper effort.

Let me give you a personal example from my childhood.  When I was 12 years old, I wanted a ten speed bicycle.  Some of the other kids on the block in our neighborhood had these and they were cool and fun.  I asked my parents to buy one for me.  They responded with the suggestion that I get a paper route (nearly the only means of earning money at that age for a boy other than doing yard work for neighbors) and earn and save enough money to buy the bike myself.  This was not being mean spirited on the part of my parents.  I took their advice and got a paper route.  In a relatively short time, I had enough money to buy the kind of bicycle I wanted.  I kept at the paper route and was able to put money into a savings account in addition to having some spend money each month.  A number of lessons were learned from this experience.  Most important was that I was not entitled to anything I wanted but could obtain things through working for them.

Families are important to society.  Their role is critical in preparing the next generation to constructively meet the challenges of life.  Government cannot replace the family and to the extent that it tries to, we will move more towards tyranny.  All despots seek to weaken families and thus demoralize the population.  A demoralized population is easier to control and manipulate and abuse.

Right now, millennials are queuing up to vote for socialist politicians who cannot deliver the goods.  (It takes character strength to not follow the crowd of one’s peers and friends, to go against the current tide of sentiment.) Having voted for Barack Obama twice, they find they cannot procure suitable employment with which to pay off their student loans (which allowed them to live beyond their means for years when they attended college).  The jobs that Obama’s policies have given us are mainly low paying, low skill and part-time. (One sees this if one digs down in each monthly jobs’ report.)  Living with mommy and daddy well into their late 20s or even into their 30s, many will not marry or will marry very late and if they have children will be raising them well into their 50s.  Of course, with the current “hook-up” sex culture, marriage is not even a goal for many of them.  Deeply connected interpersonal relationships may not be possible for some of them.  My point here is that millennials have been deceived and they have not been able to see through the deception.  And, sorry to say, they will likely pay the price for decades to come.

Their characters may be forged or re-forged rather late in life through very difficult experiences.  Some may drop by the wayside, sorry to say.

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