I saw the glowing faces and occasional tears of students often surprised by the awards they received for their diligent work, the virtues of their character, the reliability of their attendance, their dramatic improvements in reading which required determination and even courage, their excellence in sports.
Family members placed eis around their necks, rewarded for the loving guidance and discipline which led to their child’s success.
There are keys to success that give our children the best possible future. They are based on two sources: the holy scriptures of all faiths and research into the world’s leading psychologists and moral behaviourists, such as Jean Piaget:
1. Our words are weighty, so we need to weigh our words. Colossians 3:21 says: “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” Never discourage or label a child as stupid, mean, idiot, or naughty. Shaming them makes them hopeless about themselves, while naming virtues gives them hope.
The other day, I was delivering a photo of a wee four year old boy laughing and jumping. This boy has befriended my husband, Dan and whenever he sees him, he calls out “Papa! Papa!” and comes running. He wasn’t around, so we gave it to his Mama, who said only “He’s a naughty boy.” My face fell and I said, “Please don’t call him that. He is a joyful boy, an active boy, and I know he can be a handful but please, he is not a naughty boy.” She looked puzzled.
When I was a child, if another child called us names, we chanted, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
What a lie! Names, especially from birth to age six, define us to ourselves. “Naughty boy” tells a child he is bad and there is no hope for him to be good. From one name my mother called me, “scatterbrain”, I lost primary and nearly all of middle school, somehow believing that my brains had fallen out and were scattered on the ground. My mother never knew. Why would a child without a brain try to learn?
I withdrew in school, lost in my own daydreams, until year 8 when a teacher looked into my eyes and told me she expected great things from me since I was so intelligent. I thought she was crazy, but she ignited a flame of hope within me and I began to excel for the first time.
At a recent tea, a student was asked to stand and give a small thank you speech. He shook his head, feeling shy and anxious. I said, “Call on your confidence!” He immediately stood and in a clear voice spoke words of appreciation. It isn’t helpful to put them down with “Don’t be shy”. Instead, lift them up with virtues language.
2. When you discipline your children, they do not benefit from a hiding. They benefit by being required to change their behaviour to a virtue and if they hurt someone, making amends. This is how they learn respect, obedience and self-discipline. It doesn’t motivate children to call them lazy. It motivates them to give a clear boundary such as chores need to be finished before play.
3. We need to value our children, smile at them, encourage them and show affection for them. We should not dwell on their faults but focus on their strengths. There is no such thing as a throwaway child. Baha’u’llah wrote, “Know ye the value of these children, for they are all My children.” They are not our property. They come from the Lord and they belong to the Lord. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mathew 19:14)
The Araura ceremony ended with an honouring of departing teacher Charlie Kapuvai. Students heaped pareus, eis and gifts on him.
In a voice laden with emotion, he honoured them. He spoke of their true value: “In your life there is much you forget, but one thing I will remember all my life is you.”