Raising Moral Kids

If you're friends with me on Facebook you are probably familiar with my "Being a Mom" posts.  These are often random thoughts and realizations that pop into my head as I'm parenting my three boys.

My most recent realization:  Being a mom means teaching and reinforcing core values in a society that doesn't seem to have any.

Being their mom is an amazing gift but with it comes great responsibility.  There are days when I don't know what I'm doing.  There are days when I feel completely inadequate, incapable of raising my sons to become great men. There are days when I ask myself, "Am I doing this right?"

Motherhood is hard work.  I have many different roles to fill: counselor, teacher, chef, housekeeper, nurse, chauffeur, entertainer, social secretary, disciplinarian, and life coach. More importantly, I'm a spiritual leader striving to provide moral guidance to my children in an ever changing world.

My oldest son was lucky to have a fifth grade teacher who was dedicated to helping her students learn and grow. Not only did my son excel in reading, writing, math and sciences, but he also learned about grit and resilience. Like many teachers, Mrs. Z spent countless hours encouraging her students, and motivating them to learn not only the core curriculum, but also the values of individual liberty and mutual respect.

Most children don't learn about morals in school.  Teaching morals and ethics is primarily the responsibility of parents, and yet many children today seem to lack any knowledge of right and wrong. I often wonder, why?

My son is now half way through seventh grade and I had the opportunity to attend parent-teacher conferences at his junior high school earlier tonight.  This is the same school I attended 25 years ago, and walking those halls brought back so many memories, especially when engaging in conversations with three teachers I had when I was a student there. It was nice to reminisce on the old days and reflect on how much times have changed.

I was very grateful to have had the chance to meet with his Science, English, Reading and Math teachers. We discussed his academic performance as well as his personality and behavior.  The most common statement from each teacher was this: my son is responsible, a great role model for his peers, and gives 110% effort in class. One teacher shared with me that he is very mature and believes he will contribute only good things to our society.

As proud as I was to hear such great things, what stuck out the most was when one teacher told me, "He always makes good decisions and understands the importance of doing what is right.  I've taught a lot of students, and many struggle with making good choices, and still others never learn. You're doing a good job, Mom."

As I drove home after the conferences I reflected on those words.  It's not a surprise that my son is doing well, he's always been a good student.  What was difficult to accept was that I had anything to do with his success. Am I really that great of a mother? (Of course, his father deserves some of the credit.)  Does my son have an advantage because his father and I are married?  Is our parenting style vastly different from other parents?  Am I simply leading by example?  Do I attribute every decision I've made as a parent to the way my parents raised me?

Society today is vastly different than when I grew up. My parents raised me to be a responsible, independent woman.  My father always stressed the importance of integrity and personal accountability. He raised my siblings and me to believe in God, to practice our faith devoutly and to treat others with dignity and respect.  Respect was earned in our household.  We knew that we didn't deserve anything that we didn't come by honestly.

I grew up in the 80s and 90s, before social media and texting.  I wasn't plugged into the internet 24/7. I didn't have helicopter parents who orchestrated the events of my life.  I did my homework.  My parents didn't help me with school projects. My grades were my responsibility.  I had chores and I was expected to do them.  I had a job and I was expected to work hard.  My parents knew my friends and their parents.  If I had a friend headed down the wrong path my parents had a conversation with me about how my future (and reputation) might be affected by said friend's poor choices. Ultimately, I was given the freedom to make my own decisions and mistakes, but with that freedom came responsibility, and with mistakes came the opportunity to learn from them.

Pope John Paul II said, “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”

My father shared this quote with me in 1995 and it sticks with me years later because it's still relevant today. Not a day goes by that I don't read about actions and behaviors of children (and adults) that show lack of self-control, integrity, morality or any sense of social responsibility.  Many young people today appear to be rudderless, drifting through life without a moral anchor.

My children are growing up in a generation where entitlement is prevalent.  If it feels good, do it, was the moral imperative of Woodstock in 1969.  Nearly 50 years later the mantra is, "I can do what I want as long as it doesn't hurt anyone."  This is not a valid justification for one's actions. It is an irresponsible excuse. It implies that there is no absolute standard of personal (moral) conduct, except when the action hurts others, yet the statement itself is an assertion of an absolute.  By what authority does a person make this statement?

What ethical principles guide our society today? If there are no concrete principles that apply to everyone in every situation, how do we define what hurts others?  It's obvious that firing a gun into crowd of people will have immediate negative consequences, not only physical hurt but mental and emotional hurt as well. How do we decide what is hurtful or not?  How can we predict who will be hurt and how?

Sometimes I wonder if social media has crippled us. We are constantly connected electronically that one might wonder how we survived before Google, Twitter or Facebook. Gone are the days when we called our mothers or best friends to ask for advice. Now, we log into Facebook and with the click of a button join parenting groups to ask total strangers instead.

Social media tells us we can have it all: wealth, beauty, admiration, popularity, etc.  Celebrities and politicians fill our news feeds telling us that we have the freedom to make our own choices, that we don't need anyone to tell us what to do, while in actuality they are telling us what to do.

Has society become too dependent on social media?  In a word, yes.  Social media allows us to be anywhere at any time.  We can live Tweet, connect via Facebook Live, and post pictures of everything we do on Instagram and Snapchat. It seems that we thrive on these materialistic, ego-feeding platforms. Have our "real lives" become so insignificant that we need social media to boost our confidence and influence the way others perceive us?

We tell ourselves that the world has evolved, and if we don't evolve with it we'll be left behind. But have we changed too much?  Have we lost all common sense? Is it too late to bring back the morals and values that we seem to have lost?  You tell me.

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