Children’s Authors Offer Character-Building Tips
A recent rash of news stories highlights the positive in society’s youngest members: “Child Saves Kids from Bus Crash;” “Child Saves His Brother from Possible Abduction;” “Child Saves Family from House Fire.”
But all too often, the news involving children indicates a dangerous lack of morality: 7- and 8-year-olds stealing cars; a 9-year-old’s recent shooting of a school classmate; a 12-year-old charged with armed robbery. A particularly bad one nearly 20 years ago shocked sisters Debbie Burns and Patty Cockrell. Two 10-year-old truants abducted a toddler in England, tortured the little boy and beat him to death.
It prompted the women to begin work on Tukie Tales: A New Beginning for a Better Tomorrow (www.tukietales.com), a series of five children’s books designed to help parents teach young children important values.
“There is something especially senseless in reading about small children committing sadistic crimes,” Burns says. “We wanted to be part of a ‘positive push’ in the right direction.”
The younger the child, the more impressionable they are, she says. We wanted to help busy parents scrambling to make ends meet teach children empathy, compassion, environmental awareness and other values.
“I don’t think parents are bad,” she says. “But with all the economic worries, the job losses and home foreclosures, many are focused on working and worrying. It’s hard to also be thinking, ‘What value will I teach my child today?’ ”
Burns and Cockrell offer tips for parents to help positively shape children:
• Promote a love for nature: Are your kids outdoors much? Parents who are busying shuttling their sons and daughters from one building to another may overlook the benefits of the great outdoors. Wilderness, however, has a therapeutic effect on indoor dwellers. Spending time in nature also helps children learn about their place in the world and the value of all the life that shares space with us.
• Show the value of teamwork: Working together toward a common goal doesn’t always come naturally to children – or adults. Many youngsters learn teamwork through sports, which is good but almost always includes a competitive element. It’s important for children to experience the added benefits of creating, problem-solving and getting chores done as a team. Parents should look for opportunities to point out their children’s great teamwork.
• Make sure they appreciate safety: No good parent wants to unnecessarily frighten their children, but carelessness leads to bad habits, injuries and opportunities for others to do them harm. The best medicine for any problem is prevention. Remember: Don’t take for granted that your young child knows what’s safe and what’s not. Some years ago, someone taught you that stoves can burn your hand – even though you can’t remember who or when it was.
• Build their confidence with at least one skill: Remember what it’s like to be 4 years old? Very young children come into this world with no previous experience, which means their brains are hungry for know-how. Knowledge and skills to a child are like water for a thirsty man in the desert.
• Kindness counts: It is one thing to teach kids the old idiom that one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar. But children should also know that people who make kindness a habit tend to be happier; there is an inherent joy in helping others.
“I understand parents are busy earning a living to support their children,” Cockrell says. “But who you raise in the process makes all the difference to the future world.”