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| Mother Nurture© Rick Hanson, Ph.D., and Jan Hanson, L.Ac., 2005 Keys to Building Character I'm worried about how to help my son and daughter turn into ethical, caring people, especially with all the questionable influences out there these days. Any ideas? It's a real issue. With the loss of community in the past two generations (now "the village it takes to raise a child" looks more like a ghost town), an increasingly "look out for yourself" economy, and a vulgar and self-absorbed culture penetrating every corner of our lives - including children's television and advertisements - yes, we really have to wonder these days about how best to encourage good character in our precious children. From our professional perspectives - and our lessons and mistakes in raising our own children - we offer these keys. Support Your Own Health and Well-Being As the saying goes, you know the tree by its fruits. Our children consider the choices we ask them to make - many of which involve delaying or saying no to certain pleasures - and they naturally wonder what the rewards will be to offset those costs. Kids are concrete, and if they see their parents being happy, successful, and fulfilled in their own lives, they're more likely to conclude that good character is worth the effort.You don't want to get into the position - especially with teenagers - of preaching various virtues to them, and then have them say (or think) essentially that: "You're unhappy in your work and grumpy and blue at home, you drink too much, and you seem irritated most of the time with your spouse . . . . so why in the world should I walk down the same road you have??!" Be a Good Role Model Children observe and act like their parents, so we need to walk our own talk. Consider the virtues, restraints, and aspirations that you would do well to increase in your own life, and perhaps you and your partner could talk with each other about this. Be Nurturing and Intimate At the end of the day, the greatest influence we have on our children, especially as they get older, is based their sense of connection with us. By being loving and patient ourselves, we draw them to us and minimize the anger and scolding that pushes them away. Help the Child Succeed Children have temperaments, illnesses, personal frustrations and disappointments and moods, an uneven intellectual profile, and occasional health problems. All of these increase the odds of child misbehavior. By paying attention to these sorts of factors, and by trying to prevent problems before they start, you can make it easier for your child to act like a good person . . . and thus feel like one . . . and thus be motivated to keep on the path of good character. For example, be realistic about preschoolers in restaurants; sure, maybe you can punish that child intensely enough to get him to sit still for an hour, but is the collateral damage worth it? Or consider whether a tightly-controlled and buttoned-down type of school is really the best place for a child with a spirited temperament. Think about the nagging, sub-clinical health problems that seem so common these days, especially among boys, such as food sensitivities. Consider whether you've got a child who gets flooded and discombobulated by incoming sensory stimuli, and would be served by quieter environments and perhaps a formal assessment by an occupational therapist. In sum, step back and consider, perhaps with your mate, what sort of measures you could take to set your child up with the best chances of SUCCEEDING at sticking with virtues and good values. Encourage Empathy It's a fundamental human ability to sense what it's like to be another person. In fact,...