Teaching Maturity and Considerateness at HomeJAMES STENSON
James Stenson provides a brief, but clear outline of what exactly we mean when we speak of maturity, why it is so important, and how to go about teaching it in the home and at school.
= responsibility + considerateness, shown in action. The willingness and ability
to live with the consequences of ones actions and a habitual respect for
the rights and sensibilities of everyone.
Parents need to think long-term:
the childrens future marriage, success in future professional and social
circumstances, depth of ethical sense and religious responsibility. Every effort
made by parents now to build strengths will affect their childrens future
Moral development means moving from the preoccupation with self to active
service toward others. The child says, What can you do for me?; the
adult says, What can I do for you?
Parents try to teach —
through example, practice, and word — adult standards of upright thought
and behavior. Therefore, use we when correcting children.
is the key. All children will misbehave; they come into the world irresponsible,
self-centered, and rude. Therefore they need from parents: (1) clear understanding
of whats expected of them; (2) persistent follow-through over several years.
Sooner or later (sometimes much later), the children will understand why their
faults were corrected. Parents must have faith in this, and persevere in correction!
Show children that the family is a team, and their contribution
is needed and expected.
Underlying principle of family life (and all of adult
life): Authority must be proportional to responsibility. Since Parents bear nearly
all ultimate responsibility, then they are in control and they make final decisions
in important matters. Children can and should have input, but not
control. Wise parents will listen to childrens preferences,
and accede to those of minor importance; but suggestions of children in more important
matters must give way to parents decisions. (Children flourish in an environment
where they are listened to, but where competent adults are in confident control.)
Some rules for responsibility at home — what is expected of everyone in
we lose or break something, we replace it or pay for it or do without it.
we drop something, we pick it up.
we spill something or dirty something, we clean it up.
we eat off something, we clean it and put it away. If we borrow something, we
return it to where it belongs.
we cause offense, we apologize.
we skip a chore, we will do it later during play time. (If we play when its
time for work, we will work when its time for play.)
were playing with a toy, and a sibling wants to join, we will let him (her)
join or we put the toy away.
we get up out of a seat, we lose the right to it. (Parents excepted, of course.)
were going to be late, we call.
teens] If we borrow a car, we return it with at least a quarter-tank of gas. Non-compliance
means non-use of the car next time we want it.
stay out of other peoples belongings and personal affairs. (No commentary
when a sibling is being corrected or punished.)
keep family affairs within the family; we keep others affairs (gossip) out of
the family. We mind our own business.
teaching (i.e., hundreds of corrections) re good manners is a ramp-up to habitual
considerateness. The four pillars of the civilized mind are: please,
thank you, Im sorry, I give my word of honor.
use of courtesy leads eventually to habitual respect for the rights and feelings
of others. Practicing good manners leads to (1) self-respect, (2) earning the
respect of others, (3) bringing honor to parents and the whole family (family
whole family needs to practice
at the dinner table: please & thank you; asking for things out of reach; no talk
about food (except to compliment the cook); no gossip re anyone; prayers of thanksgiving,
manners: identify yourself on the phone; May I please speak with ____?(not
Is _____ there?); no yelling (lung-powered intercom) for someone to
come to the phone; taking messages intelligently. [Remember: the phone has replaced
the front door as the entranceway to the home.]
introductions, and making them graciously. Shaking hands in an adult way (no warm
adults with respect, all adults: letting adults go first through a doorway; responding
to How are you? with Fine, thank you... and you?; addressing
adults by name, where appropriate (Mr. ___ , Mrs. ____ ,
Sir, Maam); saying please and thank-you to people
who wait on us.
or write thank-you for gifts and favors. (Children need to learn how
to write letters, a dying custom and courtesy especially to thank relatives for
birthday and Christmas gifts.)
Dr. Ray Guarendi. Back to the Family (NY: Villard
James Stenson. Preparing for Adolescence (NY: Scepter
Press, 1990). (booklet of advice for parents, to prepare long-term for childrens
James. Teaching Maturity and Considerateness at Home. unpublished
Published with the permission of the author.
Stenson is the author of Anchor:
Gods Promises of Hope to Parents, Compass:
A Handbook on Parent Leadership, Upbringing:
A Discussion Handbook For Parents of Young Children and Lifeline:
The Religious Upbringing of Your Children among others. Mr. Stenson is
also the author of numerous articles and booklets including the very popular Preparing
for Peer Pressure, A Guide for Parents of Young Children and Successful
Fathers — The Subtle but Powerful Ways Fathers Mold Their Childrens
Characters. An educator, author, and public speaker, Stenson was the co-founder
of The Heights School in suburban Washington, D.C. and founder and first headmaster
of Northridge Preparatory School in suburban Chicago.
Copyright © 1999 James