Building character at home makes a difference

  • Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Dear Liz,

There is a lot of analysis going on about what made the Boston Marathon bombers turn to such behavior, as well as the actions of the shooters in schools and movie theatres.

The talk has turned to mothers and parenting. As a mother, I want to make sure I am doing everything I can for my children so they can grow into productive citizens with our morals and values. Are there any articles you recommend?

Help my kids


Dear “Help,”

What a fantastic question, and I would need a great deal more room to cover this subject. Most agree that mental health and good citizenship starts in the home. And, one huge caution: If you see on-going signs in your children of distress, isolation, poor choices -seek help immediately through Licensed Professionals.

For starters, there is one article I found about three basic things families can do. This is of a Judeo-Christian orientation.

Regardless of one’s faith, it has merit for all parents looking for practical effective things they can do. In addition, I recommend reading, printing and posting the “Character Counts! Tips for Parents” link below.

Article author Author Shirley R. Klein is a professor at the School of Family Life at BYU. She states, “Everyday activities in our homes offer opportunities to practice love, service, obedience and cooperation. Dr. Klein points out (interestingly in 2005) about the stark decline in home life and changing focus.

Author Cheryl Mendelson adds, “As people turn more and more to outside institutions to have their (everyday) needs met…(our) skills and expectations…diminish, in turn decreasing the chance that people’s homes can satisfy their needs.”

The three basic suggestions include (and I agree with my 30-plus years of mental health experience, and as a mom and grandma):

1. Rediscover and preserve the sacred nature of home and its purposes. “[Even] mundane activities can have a higher purpose and must not be disregarded…they give us opportunities to develop and practice character virtues and ethical behavior.”

2. Make family mealtime a daily event. “Evidence suggests that family meals help children have better nutrition, fewer psychological problems and less risky or self-destructive behaviors.” A study indicated that the single characteristic in common in families with students with the highest SAT scores was a daily meal together at the table.

3. Recognize that family activities have temporal and spiritual effects. Family researcher Enola Aird reminds us that, it is at home we learn how to work and govern ourselves, manners and morals, and how to be self-reliant.

“Without parents’ humanizing work, children may be quite smart, well-educated and successful but also so selfish, self-centered and uncaring as to be essentially uncivilized — not able to live in a spirit of community with others.”

Here are some links to this article and other helpful sites: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2007/07/three-tools-to-build-a-sacred-home?lang=eng ; http://charactercounts.org/pdf/Parents-TipSheet.pdf ; http://www.ahaparenting.com/ (Great parenting information site) and to help your family and community be proactive in literally preventing terrorism, see: http://www.ready.gov/citizen-corps.


Contact Liz via asksharpliz@gmail.com. Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Master degree level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years experience in mental health.

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