Midwest Voices

Building family, helping society

Updated: 2013-09-17T23:55:43Z


Midwest Voices

I once read that families are the building blocks of society. I believed it so much that years later, I remember that one lone quote from that book.

In our family, tiny tots learn social graces, lisping, “thank you” for a glass of milk and, “please” for something they desire. They learn to respect the word “no” and slowly cultivate delayed gratification. Beyond these basics lie a whole raft of character traits, which can be formally taught and inculcated into little hearts.

In the Rhoads household, attentiveness is first on the list. We expect our babes to stop playing, look at us when we call their names and as they grow to respond that they have heard.

Indeed, learning to listen and remember springboard a child into formal education. An early game with my children required them to collect several items after marching around the living room listening to music. They had to listen to the items I wanted them to get, remember them despite distraction, and then put into action something they had heard several minutes previously. Attentiveness.

After learning to attend to a parent’s words, came obedience. Grandchildren at our house still hear, “Obedience means Do it now with a smile!” Older grandchildren memorize, “ Obedience is instant and cheerful compliance.”

Growing up, sons who talked back earned chores, and then multiple chores, and gradually they learned it wasn’t worth it. The satisfaction of spouting off meant cleaning the toilet, taking out the trash, dusting the living room, sweeping the porch, weeding the garden. . . I had such a clean house when my children were young. Obedience.

After the grounding of those two major accomplishments, we delved into such important concepts as honesty, neatness, contentment, gentleness, kindness — 36 in all. By the teenage years my sons heard the same three or four traits in constant refrain, as personal habits challenged the traits we wanted personified.

Along the way we learned several important things. To teach attentiveness, we learned to be more attentive ourselves. To teach contentment, we had to model contentment, suppressing unnecessary wants. To teach gentleness, we had to speak gently, even when annoyed. We brushed up on our own character traits as we taught our children. We also learned that children need follow-through. We couldn’t tell a child to pick up a toy, turn our backs, and let the instruction slip by unfulfilled.

We had to have a longer attention span than our children and be dedicated enough to see it through. We had to put their needs ahead of our own and do it on a consistent basis day in, day out and through the years.

We thought we’d retire and rest on our laurels when our children finished college and moved out. But we now find our home filled with grandchildren entering the delightful years of modeling and conditioning along with their parents, whom we still try to “parent,” lo these many years later.

We discovered that the family exists for as long as we live along with the joys and responsibilities of parenthood. Thank goodness they do because it enriches our lives and brings meaning to our days.

Saralee Rhoads has worked as an emergency room nurse, surgical nurse and home school advocate and is founder of Families for Home Education. She also has a bead business. She lives in Sibley, Mo. To reach her, send email to oped@kcstar.com or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.

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