How often do adults consider the little eyes watching? No matter what their age, children see us at our best and our worst. What we often fail to recognize is how easily even the youngest of children are influenced by the adults around them. A couple of years ago, I was reminded how early children begin to imitate us. My grandson, who was one at the time, loves playing outside, and when he would come over to visit I would sit on the step and watch him play in the yard. Eventually, as soon as we went out the door, he would sit on the step, even before I did. This simple action demonstrated to me how critical it is to set an example of positive character even for a one year old! As adults, if one of our weaknesses is patience, and we show our impatience in line at the grocery store or sitting in traffic, day in and day out, what is the child in the car seat going to learn? And think for a moment about our older children. It’s easy to do the math. If I show a lack of patience even just once a week, by the time my child is five, he/she will have seen my impatience 260 times; by the time he/she is ten, 520 times; and by high school graduation, my weekly displays of impatience would be nearing 1,000.
When purposefully focusing on building a community of character, a key point to realize is that each person is a role model to others, both young and old. It is easy to see the character faults in the sports figures and celebrities to which our children are exposed. But we don’t often stop to consider the impact we have on our children’s ability to be patient, when things around us are not moving at the pace we would like; or their ability to be flexible, when we have trouble adjusting to last minute changes; or their ability to be forgiving, when we get wrapped up in discussing an ongoing grudge with our neighbor or co-worker.
“Don’t sweat the small stuff” is a common reminder not to become overly obsessed with the little problems that may occur throughout the day. Maybe we should sweat the small stuff when it comes to the “little” character choices we make each day. We should understand that it is not only the monumental choices we make between right and wrong that impact those around us and future generations, but also the small, seemingly insignificant, decisions we make daily that count. The path to character is an uncompromising resolve in big and small things alike. Join us in promoting a culture of character by asking yourself as you go through the day –“What role am I playing?”
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