My little girl, who is almost three years old, earned a dollar this week, and she was so excited. I asked her what she wanted to do with her money, and like any other tot she wanted immediate fleshly gratification. “Gum!” she squealed.
As we walked down the store aisle, I spotted a small roll of thin red ribbon and another of polkadot ribbon. I showed her the ribbon and said to her, “Here are two rolls of ribbon you could buy with your dollar. If you bought the ribbon, then you could make bows, and brother could help you hot-glue them on some of your old barrettes. I bet your cousins would like them for their hair, and then you could match! You could even teach them how to make hair bows.” Her eyes brightened at the thought of how happy her cousins would be and better yet, the wonder of teaching the older cousins how to make the fancy bows. I said, “It is your dollar, so you can buy gum or ribbon.” She grabbed the ribbon. She is learning that life is better when it is shared with those you love. Children must be gently steered into opportunities to mature out of immediate fleshly gratification.
They need to develop a greater vision of how to spend money, time, and life on things of greater value. You can aid the process by giving your children gifts that enable them to be creative and to share the fruit of their hands with others.
When we travel and stay in motels I always talk to my children about where they are, where the steps are in case of fire, how to find our room, what floor we are on, etc. I am doing two things: first, if they were to get separated from me, it will give them a working knowledge of how to find me. Second, I am teaching them the art of observation.
One hot summer day years ago, a homeschooling mom and her four kids saw an old lady crossing the street. They spoke of her plight: “Did you notice the old lady? She looks tired. Let’s help her.” They stopped the car and asked her if she wanted a ride, and then took her to her apartment, which was only a few blocks away. It was decided that the homeschooling mom would sit in the car with the younger kids while the 8-year-old brother carried the lady’s bags up the stairs and gave her the $10 bill that was always kept in a small compartment in the car for such occasions.
I was that boy, and it was with fear and pride that I walked up those steps. My mom cared about people and was willing to invest her life helping others. She taught us children that it was our duty to be doers of the Word. All my siblings loved obeying our parents, and now as adults we greatly honor them; it is easy because they are greatly honorable people.
Education doesn’t have to be perfect, and sometimes it is better if it is not. For example, some mothers take from their daughters the joy of learning to sew by expecting a perfect seam or not showing delight in their work. It is easy to stifle a child’s first pleasures with demands of getting it right. The worst thing you can do is take her work away from her and finish it yourself. She will lose interest immediately and never want to try again. The same concept goes for a child learning music, cooking, building, sports, and even reading. The child’s hope and her dreams of doing something original and praiseworthy are what keep her going. Provide the material and the praise, and the prize will be an industrious child.
Dad is always aware of what is behind him. He never walks into a restaurant without scouting the room with his eyes and then sitting with his back against the wall. When driving down the road he would tell us that what is behind you is just as important as—maybe more important than—what is in front of you, so always watch your back. I was raised to observe and be ready.