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Help them cultivate good habits (part 9 of 12)


Help them cultivate good habits

This blog is the ninth of a 12-part series on ‘Parenting is a Journey’. Ignatius Fernandez also blogs at http://thechildisfatheroftheman.blogspot.in/.

My nephew, a strong young man of 35, collapsed as he was walking down a street, and died before he was taken to hospital. At the funeral, his friend spoke a few kind words. I complimented the young man for his speech. Then, I asked him: “Did you praise him when he was alive?” The answer was, “no”.

1) Why do we reserve our best sentiments for obituary columns, condolence and farewell meetings? Why don’t we praise people when they are with us? Why don’t we lead our children into the habit of praising others, starting with folks at home? Hunger for praise (not to be confused with flattery) is natural. Which means, satisfying the hunger for praise, is a winning habit; others are won over.

“Your character is essentially the sum of your habits”. – Rick Warren

As parents, we have a great responsibility to initiate our children into good habits. Changing bad habits is difficult. As someone rightly remarked, first we make our habits; then our habits make us. Isn’t it obvious that our children gain when they cultivate good habits? Besides praising people, a few other habits will help our children stand out.

2) A Korean mother, whose only son was killed, stabbed 17 times, not only forgave her son’s killer, but also decided to adopt him, after surrendering her pain to God. We admire such noble souls. What of us? What about our children? Since grudges affect our health, performance and disposition, it does make sense to forgive. And when our children form the habit of forgiving, their relationships are transformed. Rightly, forgiveness is a thread that runs through the fabric of most religions.

3) A kind old woman was known to find some good in everybody. Testing her, some young men asked her what she thought of the Devil. Her answer sent them running for cover: “The good thing about the Devil is that he is always on the job”. Not finding fault is difficult. But when the habit is formed, others are drawn to us. Wouldn’t we want our children to be endearing?

4) There is a view propagated by some young people, and portrayed in some movies, that thanking or apologising to friends and loved ones, is not necessary. This view is unsound. If we thank God, who needs nothing from us because He is complete in all ways, does it not make sense to thank people, like us, who need it? The fragrance of gratitude is pleasing to us; so is the aroma of an apology. Most human actions are broadly divided into good and not-so-good acts. The good deeds call for praise and thanks. The not-so-good ones are to be forgiven; and forgiven readily when the offender apologises. Our children have to understand the merit of cultivating habits of apologising, forgiving and thanking others. They could begin by getting into the habit of genuinely saying: ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry.’  They do not lose face by apologising or become small by thanking others, even for little acts of kindness. And they grow in stature by forgiving the lapses of others. Let them add to common usage, words like ‘Please’, ‘excuse me’, greetings like ‘good morning’, ‘good night’, even for those at home. Such practises give our children an edge.

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