Parents Who Want Good Kids Must Set Example
Feb. 28, 2005
A UMC.org Feature
By Vicki Brown*
reason 16-year-old Aaron Holland volunteers at Canyon Lake United
Methodist Church’s child care center is to set a good example for his
younger brother—the kind of example his own parents set for them both.
teen from Rapid City, S.D., says his dad is honest to a fault, and
Aaron chuckles over his mom’s story of the fast-food restaurant worker
giving Jim Holland too much change at the drive-in window one day. His
dad returned the extra money.
just a great example of what to do," he says. "If you know something is
wrong, then you should just do what’s right and fix the problems."
an example is crucial for parents who want to raise good, moral
children of character in a society that often sends mixed messages about
success, cheating and honesty, says Michele Borba, author of Building Moral Intelligence and Parents Do Make a Difference.
“Be very clear what you stand for. Don’t be wishy-washy,” Borba says.
parents say they value honesty but then go to the movies and get a
12-year-old in for the child’s price, they are modeling a different
behavior, she says.
best way to teach character and solid moral growth is not by talking
it, but by walking it,” she says. She urges parents to ask themselves:
“If my child had only my behavior to learn from today, what did they
believes that as a society, Americans are putting youth under too much
pressure to succeed at school, on tests, in college, while losing sight
of the importance of caring, kindness, empathy and other virtues.
“I do not see bumper stickers that say, ‘Proud Parent of Decent Kids,’” she says.
mom, Deb Holland, agrees. Holland, who grew up in a family of nine,
recalls that her mother was always the first person at the door with a
casserole when someone in the community was sick or died.
She’s trying to set a similar example for Aaron and his younger brother, 14-year-old Matthew.
can’t always give at the top, but if the church needs someone to help
with crafts or bake a cake, I can do that,” says Holland, a member of
Holland and Borba agree that church, especially youth activities, can be crucial to building character.
“We have really made it a priority that our kids participate in both church and youth groups,” Holland says.
Balcomb, a lay youth leader at Common Cup Ministries, works with youth
from five United Methodist churches in Portland, Ore.—Laurelwood,
Lincoln Street, Sunnyside-Centenary, Tabor Heights and Trinity.
really long for meaning in their lives. Once they find things that make
it meaningful, those are the choices they make,” Balcomb says.
Volunteer and mission work mean a great deal to youth, she says. She
adds that she spends a lot of time at youth group meetings on how to
make good choices.
cautions parents that even if their message is clear about character
issues, they need to understand that children and teens get hit with
mixed messages from society. For instance, the government’s “No Child
Left Behind” effort is emphasizing test scores but not character, she
She urges parents not to go it alone.
“Get a support group—your friends, your church, any group of parents willing to stand for what is right,” she says.
who are overwhelmed with the pressure for their kids to get top grades
and achievement test scores might be surprised to learn that colleges
are looking for students of a different stripe.
are looking for kids who have a passion for life, for a child who had a
real strong interest and passion,” Borba says. Colleges are looking not
for a teen who has gone from one volunteer effort to another to build a
resume, but for someone who has stuck with something he or she loves,
something that can make a difference.
Holland urges parents to start early. When her children were small, she
took them to a local mission at Christmas to give away their outgrown
snowsuits. “I wanted them to know that Christmas was not all about big
packages,” she says.
and her boys also run the duck pond game at the annual church Halloween
carnival, and they helped with a church fund raiser for the Heifer
Project. She jokes that she “guilts” her boys into doing good.
Her son thinks it’s working.
once in a while, they try to pull the guilt card on me,” he says with a
laugh. “Otherwise, they set a great example in being honest and doing
the right thing.”
*Brown is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Matt Carlisle, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5153 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This feature was developed by UMC.org, the official online ministry of The United Methodist Church.