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A Parent's Influence on a Child

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A Parent's Influence on a Child
“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 until

you stand in this shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was

enough.” (Lee 279). At this point of the novel, it shows greatly how mature Scout has

become because of Atticus instilling the value of empathy at an early age. Throughout the

novel, Scout and Jem think of Boo as a monster and think of all the rumors about him to

be true. It is on Boo’s porch where she realizes the wrong in her thoughts about Boo. She

also realizes the wrong in her constantly harassing him to come outside when she sees

just how much Boo can actually see from his house. She understands that all this time,

Boo got life from watching her and Jem play outside and as a result to this realization,

she never tries to get Boo to come outside again. Therefore, it is evident that as a result of

Atticus instilling the value of empathy within Scout, she thinks about others’ side of the

story before she treats them a certain way and is aware of the consequences of having a

one-sided opinion.

Atticus also instills the value of respect within his children in order to influence their

treatment and perception of all people. In Maycomb, respect is not a value that is familiar

to all citizens. The people here tend to get into others’ lives without considering

the effect it may have. To teach his children differently from their neighbours, he tells

Scout and Jem to “…shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em but remember,

it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” (Lee 90). By not shooting any mockingbirds, Atticus is

respecting their privacy and letting them be, as they do not bother anybody. However,

Scout and Jem do not understand why Atticus is telling them that “it’s a sin to kill a

mockingbird” because they do not see what is so harmful about shooting a bird. Atticus

wants them to realize, without telling them, that mockingbirds do not harm any other

birds or people and therefore, they should respect them. Once they realize that, Atticus

hopes that they will continue respecting those who live in Maycomb. After Scout and

Jem understand the wisdom behind Atticus’ words from Miss Maudie, Jem shows respect

for a bug when Scout says “Why couldn’t I mash him?” (Lee 238). Jem replies by saying

“[b]ecause they don’t bother you” (Lee 238). Jem is respecting the roly-poly bug that

Scout was about to kill by refraining her from interfering with its life. By doing so, Jem

finally sees that Atticus wanted them to show respect for those who deserved it, not only

to mockingbirds. Scout also realizes this later in the novel when she tells Atticus that

telling the truth about who really killed Bob Ewell would be “…sort of like shootin’ a

mockingbird” (Lee 276). Here, Scout is respecting Boo’s privacy by assuring Atticus that

lying about how Boo was the one who saved her and Jem is okay. By doing so, Scout is

regarding the fact that Boo does not like public attention and prefers to be left alone.

She realizes that if Atticus and Heck were to expose Boo, it would do much more harm

than good. Her newfound respect for Boo is a result of Atticus’ parenting, as earlier in the

novel, she did not consider how Boo felt when she did things like putting his life story

and the rumors about him on display for the neighbourhood. Thus, Jem and Scout respect

others by showing consideration towards them.

Lastly, Atticus instills the value of righteousness within his children in order to

influence their treatment and perception of all people. Righteousness is the quality or

state of being just or rightful. Atticus is one of the few people in Maycomb who

demonstrates righteousness in his everyday life. In order for Jem and Scout to always do

what they believe is right, he tells them that “[t]he one thing that doesn’t abide by

majority rule is a person’s conscience” (Lee 105). Jem and Scout are strongly affected by

peer pressure in Maycomb because the town is full of prejudice and racism. Most of the

people feel that Atticus is wrong for defending Tom Robinson because he is black. Scout

and Jem begin to feel this way as well because of how many people think that Atticus is

wrong. However, Atticus disagrees and makes it obvious to Scout that even if he may be

the only one who feels that he is doing the right thing, it is still the right thing. To instill

this value within Jem, when Jem asks him if he had to read to Mrs. Dubose, he replies by

saying “certainly” (Lee 105) even though she said something mean about him and Jem

does not like her. By doing so, he is guiding his children to live a life where they always

do the right thing no matter what others say. As a result of Atticus instilling this value,

Jem later shows righteousness when Dill is found in their house without parental consent.

Instead of helping Dill and sneaking around, he says “[y]ou oughta let your mother know

where you are…Atticus can you come here a minute, sir” (Lee 141). By insisting Dill to

tell his mother where he is and involving Atticus, Jem is doing what he feels is right. He

knows how worried Dill’s parents must be and feels that it is not right to be sneaking

around Atticus anymore like he did in the past. Both Scout and Dill do not appreciate Jem

doing so but he does not apologize for it, just as Atticus did not apologize for defending

Tom Robinson or for making Jem read to Mrs. Dubose. Therefore, Scout and Jem

recognize the importance of following their own conscience.

Overall, Atticus influences Scout and Jem’s treatment and perception of every one by

teaching them the value of empathy, respect and righteousness in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Atticus teaches them the value of empathy by telling Scout to look at things from a

different perspective, which results in Scout understanding the reasoning behind both Jem

and Boo. In addition, Scout and Jem begin to consider others because of Atticus teaching

them the value of respect. Finally, as a result of Atticus instilling the value of

righteousness by teaching them to always do what is right, Jem makes a decision for the

better that does not please his friends. Thus, the influence a parent has on their child is

extraordinary like no other relationship between two people.

Word Count: 1767

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