Looking at the national political landscape, one wonders where our children will find a model for ethical behavior. Almost 30 years ago I served as the chairman of the Cherokee County Ethics Board. We had a number of issues requiring time and legal advice. Observing some employees and some elected officials in our county brought charges from citizens about ethical behavior.
Many families will find reports in the media and the behavior exhibited in some leaders will raise questions to be discussed in the home. Parents can commiserate with their children and despair at the absence of moral character. But dishonesty and failure of those in the public limelight can offer an opportunity for teaching principles. The question is where do we turn for such guidelines?
History can offer some models of decision-making and leadership. Those who have been good leaders can be held up as examples of courageous direction. Whether George Washington’s honesty about the cherry tree chop or the stories of persistence in the face of many disappointments from Abe Lincoln’s life, the lessons emerge.
Important documents can also encourage our children. Learning the Pledge of Allegiance or the verses of the National Anthem offer stimulating ideas about patriotism, and the idealism that challenged our forefathers. Few parents will take the time to share their faith in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights as guidelines for the behavior of citizens. Do we really want to leave that responsibility to those who teach at whatever level?
Ethical behavior is determined through spiritual principles too. The moral demands and spiritual influences of our faith provide a foundation for the dreams that pull us toward our best. Parents who fulfill their responsibilities to teach their children offer a stronger base for ethical consideration.
I think we as parents need to ask several strategic questions about our children’s educational and emotional development. Here they are:
1. From whom do I wish my children to learn the principles that will shape their lives?
2. Where will I find the teachings to share with them the values that shape my life?
3. Am I willing to deal with the failures and successes of society’s leaders and answer the difficult questions my children may ask?
4. Finally, if I fail to share my ethical foundations with my children, who will guide them?
Parenting is not for sissies, but the rewards of seeing our children become honorable and successful leaders in our world is worth every challenge. Think about that!