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  • 1. NORTHSOUTH FOUNDATION 2008 NATIONAL SENIOR ESSAY WRITING FINALS TOP ESSAYS Topic: What can parents do to instill good moral values in their children who seem to be shaped by their contemporary models? Are today’s parents good role models? We reap what we sow when it comes to teaching values to children. Write an inspiring essay advising an audience of parents on how to be good role models. Essay A In the whirlwind of media depicting wild teen stars and news reports flashing images of teenagers pushed over the edge, many parents are at a loss for providing their children with good role models. But a real-model for children can come from closer to the home. Parents who spend valuable time with their children, engage their kids by expanding their horizons, and lead by example can raise children with a strong foundation in moral values. It is scientifically proven that parents who spend more time with their children will usually raise more intelligent children who are better citizens of the world. Early childhood development peaks at infancy, so even at this young age parents must make a valient effort to engage their children. Whether it be by reading books together, taking walks together, or imagining with toys together infant to parent communication is the first seed in creating a flourishing garden of personality. There too many toddlers who are instructed to leave their parent alone and just go watch TV is often replaced with quality time for young children, subjecting them from an early age to the corruption of society. As children grow parents must continue the interaction. Whether it be in family walks, movies, game nights, or at the dinner table it is integral to development to continue interactions between the child and the parent. Another crucial stage in brain development comes in the early years of adolescence. Although their child may resist out of embarrassment, parents should continue planning activities and spending time with their growing child. Absolutely nothing can replace the link created by meaningful parent to child interactions. As children mature and grow, parents should expand their child’s horizens with open discussions and new outlooks. The previously discussed link fostered between the parent and child from infancy will pave the way for activities of more significance and meaning. As a child reaches adolescence he or she should slowly be exposed to real life. Political discussions, friendly debates, or even celebrity gossip are engaging ways to further the link with your child. Not only will you be able to provide them with their first glimpse into the real world, you will also be opening the door for them to approach you with questions about any situation. A great way to prompt these discussions is to watch the news with your child. While watching it is helpful to give your own opinions about the morality of actions of others. This is especially important if watching celebrity gossip. It is important to explain to your child that while celebrities may have “the life” their wild actions are absolutely not acceptable. Michael Jackson, Linsey lohan, and Jodi Sweetin can be offered as examples of celebrities who destroyed their careers with impulsive www.northsouth.org Page 1
  • 2. decisions about looks, fame, and drugs. Besides chatting with your children about the real world, it is important that you let them experience it. Bring them to work one day for a job shadow, give them a taste of food from different cultures, encourage them to learn a new language. By talking to children about the real world and presenting them with a global perspective parents can develop an open mind of thought and experience in their children. Perhaps the single greatest thing a parent can do to raise a child with good morals is to lead by example. It has been proven that from a young age children will do as they see. They will copy siblings and even imitate their favorite TV characters. If a parent wishes to raise a child with good morals, he or she must first find these morals within him or her self. Whether or not they are consciously aware of it children of all ages imitate their parents. This is the reason why children of alcoholics often end up being or marying alcoholics themselves. Therefore, what one wishes to see in their child they must first display. For example, if you want your child to watch the news, you should watch it and discuss it with them. If you want a child to clean their room, set an example by keeping the house clean. Oh and NEVER ever lie in front of a young child, even if it is a white lie. Not only can this lead to embaressing consequences, it also sends a message that lying is ok. The actions of parents are crucial to the moral development of children. While many believe that current society is bereft of any iconic models, it is crucial to remember that parents are often the best role models for their children. Parents who spend time with their children, instill a global view in their children, and lead by example, are wonderful role models who can raise children with solid moral values. www.northsouth.org Page 2
  • 3. Essay B Think Like a Duck A common image to any student of biology is the crucial first moment after a brood of baby ducklings first emerge from their shells. The infants’ eyes cast about frantically until they finally seize hold of and recognize the mother duck. In this one, fleeting glimpse, the ducklings imprint upon their parent and grasp hold of the key to their own future success. Ducks, as to other animals, learn everything about themselves by watching the parent. Feeding behavior, swimming, evasion of predators, even recognition of potential mates – all duck wisdom is passed down from mother to child of course, a mother duck does not simply tell her brood what is expected of them – instead, she teaches by example. In watching Mommy feed, Baby learns how to as well. In the lifestyle of ducks lies a crucial lesson that is invaluable in the education of human children. The child depends on the parents to teach it exactly what humanity entails. The parent is wholly responsible to impart the correct priorities, moral values, and belief systems to her child so that the latter can function correctly in human society. And whether duck or human, the only correct and effective way to impart these lessons is by example. The first life lessons a child must inherit from his parents are the correct priorities. Life is an endless parade of choices in which an individual must allocate his limited time and energy to activities he views as important. The duty of the parent is to instill in the child the notion that familial obligations, responsibilities to society, and education of the self and others are all noble and worthy goals that must come before personal enjoyment or sensual indulgence. The single, crucial method for instilling the correct priorities in one’s children is to follow those priorities oneself. A parent who attends his son’s Little league game rather than the World Series proudly displays his priority to family. A mother who spends her day off volunteering at her community soup kitchen shows she values service over personal pleasure. The baby ducklings, gazing at his parents, comes to value these same obligations, takes them to heart, and will ultimately give them the highest priority in his own future life. If a parent allows their priorities to be seen and felt in their actions rather than merely heard in words, they exert a much more profound influence on the attitudes of their progeny. Children cannot be expected to know what the important aspects of life, what priorities they must hold dear, are – this must be shown to them by their parents. The second gift parents must bequeath their children is a set of moral values and qualities. Honesty, empathy, compassion – all of these are words that any parent wants to hear their child spoken about with. But what value will the son of a fast talking con artist ever assign to honesty? Parents are the guides that children use to define humanity itself. A ruthless business executive lacking all empathy will never be able to give his daughter the idea that compassions and love are noble qualities. For the first part of their lives, children equate their parents with life itself. As such, they magnify their moral values and personality traits to almost mythic proportions. It is the parent’s prerogative to decide what moral (or immoral) behavior and values they wish to display around their children; however, they must realize that any trait of theirs will later determine what qualities their www.northsouth.org Page 3
  • 4. sons and daughters admire and value. Thus, the moral compass and personality of children also depends entirely on the parents’ example. Finally, parents must also serve as examples of the belief systems they wish their children to adopt. Religion, political affiliation, philosophy – all serve as support and comfort in times of trouble as well as glasses through which the entire world is viewed. A child’s belief systems form an integral part of how they interact with the world and how they cope with joy and sorrow. In a recent survey, two-thirds of children were found to mimic their parents’ political affiliations. Large majorities of children also practice the same religious faith that their parents do. If parents teach their child about their own beliefs and philosophy by example – by attending prayer services or by commenting on political developments-they teach the child how to build a critical framework within which they can view the world. This framework will give them support and lend meaning to their lives. Thus, in order to be good role models in today’s society, parents must teach their children priorities, morality, and beliefs by example. In doing so, parents will teach their children exactly what it means to be human. The golden nuggets of wisdom that constitute humanity itself can only be passed on from father to son, from mother to daughter. The responsibility of being a good role model is enormous, as is the pressure that accompanies being responsible for the future success and well-being of a human being. To parents embarkin on this all-important journey, I offer you one small piece of wisdom: think like a duck. www.northsouth.org Page 4
  • 5. Essay C The perfect parent doesn’t have to be the coolest mom on the block. He doesn’t have to be the hippest dad. As parents, you have a responsibility far more weighty than impressing your friends. You have raise your children into mature, responsible adults with firm moral values and ethics. This task however, deems itself more difficult than wearing the latest fads, or befriending your children as peers. The plethora of negative media attention weaves itself into the lives of children universally, whether that be through a magazine article or a discussion at school. We see daily examples of DUIs and improper dressing, excessive violence and unnecessary murders. It can be hard to shield a budding flower from these ravaging hailstorms of bad media. And while today’s parents are trying their best to instill good values in children, they can only do so much. Demonstrating and teaching values are key to teaching proper values, but trust and responsibility on the children’s part is also vital. Like a mirror, parents must act the way they want to see their children behave. Swearing and inappropriate actions can leave lasting impressions on children, so it is best to keep these out of children’s access. You might be thinking of your attempts to quit smoking, which were been bold, but ultimately a failure. If you absolutely can’t cut the habit, at least advise your children about the downfalls of smoking. Showing the repercussions will warn children not to continue the bad habits. Television shows like Gossip Girl also glamorize many habits not desirable in society. And contrary to the many arguments stating otherwise, the shows do influence the way children act and think. As a student, I have seen countless examples of this. The best thing to do is not to taboo the show, which believe it or not, actually increases children’s curiousity. Instead, watching with your child, and discussing the behavior will provide children with insight into the reality behind the show. Demonstrating values yourself and discussing them with your children will ultimately help form their morals and value systems properly. Another role, as parent, is to point out examples of virtue and vice in society. Real-life examples help children believe that the morals and values taught actually have meaning. I can listen to my parents drone on and on about proper behavior, but until I see it, I won’t really care. As a young child, my dad would never lecture me on the importance of being courteous. But in public situations, he would always remind me to regard my manners and say “please” and “thank you”. This reinforcement has led me to be the courteous person I am today and my father’s reminders are no longer quite necessary. So propriety is important, but what about other values, of knowing right from wrong? Pointing out examples, like that of Jamie Lyn Spears premarital teenage sex, and Linsay Lohan’s DUI’s, can help enforce positive values in children. We all want children to be stable adults before entering parenthood, and we fear the risks of underage drinking and driving. On a more trivial matter, no one wants to be thought of as a grandpa until they actually have white hair. Pointing out the mistakes of young people under the media spotlight, and discussing the repercussions they face shows children, particularly teenagers that thoughtless acts “in the moment” can lead to sever and possibly permanent detrimental consequences. With the proper guidance and counseling, external events can be translated into interesting lessons with your children. But in addition to enforcing the moral values, some freedom of thought must also be given. Trust is a key factor in parenting. Trusting children to follow your rules, and trusting them to make wise choices. Trust in your children often accompanies another www.northsouth.org Page 5
  • 6. trait – responsibility. The proper amount of trust accompanies the responsibility your child has to himself, his body, his family, and even to his peers. This can mean letting your daughter go that party, or allowing your son to use the car. As parents, its important to let your children demonstrate their values, and too many restrictions usually leads to rebellion. However, as everything else with parenting, there is no clear cut equation for allotting trust. This is why repercussions of actions must always be emphasized, and explanations for forbidden things must always be provided. The simple “no” usually will not suffice, and only an explanation will help children understand the reasons behind the rules, helping them also understand your values and beliefs. Another tactic to help develop trust is to use role-play scenarios. Allowing your children to exercise decision making skills in safe environments, these scenarios can help foster the feelings of trust and responsibility. Providing a mirror of good values, discussing real-life situations and fostering trust are some mechanism that get moral values from you to your children. Numerous studies have shown that knowing right and wrong only develops during adolescence, and environmental triggers play a large role in this process. Proper demonstration, discussion and direction, the “three Ds” you could say, help provide the moral and ethical framework all parents hope to see in their children. www.northsouth.org Page 6