A Parent's Influence on a Child

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“The child supplies the power but the parents have to do the steering” –Benjamin

Spock. For the most part, parents have the largest influence in a child’s life by teaching

them values to educate them and set them in the right direction for them to have the most

fulfilling life possible. A value is a person’s principles of standards of behavior.

However, the parent can only guide the child while the child has the drive and motivation

to follow the path set out by the parent. For example, in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee, Atticus demonstrates how he instills his own values within his children to

influence their treatment and perception of all people. Atticus is a lawyer in the town of

Maycomb and the parent of Scout and Jem, whom he treats as if they were adults. Scout,

who is six years old, is the narrator of the story in which we see life in Maycomb through

her eyes over a span of three years. Her brother, Jem is four years older than her. They

see things differently than most children because of Atticus’s unique parenting style.

Throughout the novel, Atticus instills three important values within Scout and Jem. He

instills the value of seeing things from a different perspective, showing consideration for

others and always doing what is right within them. Therefore, in To Kill a Mockingbird,

Atticus instills the value of empathy, respect and righteousness within his children in

order to influence their treatment and perception of all people.

Atticus instills the value of empathy in his children in order to influence their

treatment and perception of all people. During the novel, many people in Maycomb

have negative opinions of certain citizens without showing any empathy. However,

Atticus does not want his children to think like most of the citizens of Maycomb. When

Scout starts to have negative thoughts about Miss Caroline, Atticus tells her “…You

never really understand a person until you climb into his skin and walk around in

it” (Lee 30). Atticus is giving Scout a crucial piece of advice that will govern her

development for the rest of the novel. Nevertheless, at this point of the story,

Scout is only six years old and it is quite evident that she does not see things from other

people’s perspectives. Because of this, she is angry with Miss Caroline for getting her in

trouble for trying to explain why Walter could not accept her money. Atticus realizes that

although this situation of being angry with Miss Caroline is small one, if he did not

correct her ways at this moment, Scout will run into larger situations where she will do

more serious things like fighting without understanding the other side of the story. Thus,

Atticus tells Scout to “climb into [her] skin” and see that Miss Caroline could not have

known the ways of everybody in Maycomb right away. The first sign of Scout

experiencing the feelings, thoughts and attitudes of another person on her own is revealed

when Scout “tried to climb into Jem’s skin and walk around in it” (Lee 57). She decides

to follow Atticus’s advice when she doesn’t understand why Jem did not talk to her after

he got his pants back. When she “climb[s] into Jem’s skin,” she realizes that she should

leave him alone rather than be angry with him because she wouldn’t want to talk either if

she went back to the Radley yard. By coming to this realization, she fully understands the

importance of empathy, as in the beginning of the novel, she did not think twice about her

thoughts on people. In addition, the most significant use of Atticus’ advice of “You never

really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view” is when

Scout finally comes to realize the truth behind Boo Radley. She shows empathy towards

him when she states that “[o]ne time he [Attics] said you never really know a man...
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