Just a quick New Year’s thought on what to aim for!

I’m sitting here in my pyjamas after having a quiet New Year’s Eve with my husband, watching some TV and knitting the bridesmaids’ shawls for my daughter Katie’s wedding next month.

And I’m just taking it easy today!

But I came across a quick thought I wrote a few New Year’s ago, in the secular column I wrote in a bunch of local newspapers, and I thought it was important to mention again. So here we go:

Have you ever noticed that most of our resolutions concern weight? We’re going to exercise. We’re not going to sneak the kids’ chocolate. We’re going to diet, at least for the next few days before our resolve passes.

Being healthy is certainly an admirable goal, but I’m curious as to why we focus so much on food. Other variables influence our health, too.

For men, especially, being married is a health boon. It’s the equivalent to never having smoked. And common law relationships don’t have the same health bonus. Divorce, on the other hand, is a health killer. So if we’re really interested in health, maybe we should focus on our relationships, too!

The same is true for our children. We want them to succeed and do well in life, but we tend to focus on academics, as if that’s all that counts. But if we want to raise kids who will be independent, motivated, and responsible, good marks are no guarantee of anything! We all know brilliant young men with no drive who waste their lives on video games. Intelligence is not nearly the determinant for future success as work ethic and morals are. (Which is why you should teach your kids to cook!)

Do we focus too much on looks and health and grades and not enough on what really matters--having good character? Some thoughts.

I think many parents, though, just assume that their children will turn out okay. They give them the best toys, an easy life, and help them to succeed in school, assuming that this will steer their children into becoming good citizens. But without a real moral foundation, there’s no guarantee that this will happen.

Our culture is spreading a message which is the exact antithesis of real success in life. It says that appearance matters more than ethics; that sex is the way to popularity; that money can buy happiness (and so can electronic gadgets); and that the best thing in life is to have fun, not to be productive. The only way for our children to combat these attitudes is for us to take an active role in their lives and show them the benefits of acting responsibly.

Our New Year’s Resolutions for our children, then, should primarily focus on character.

If you raise a child with good morals, the rest will follow. If you raise a self-centred, irresponsible but intelligent child, they’re unlikely to go far. So this year, can you teach them to do chores, so that they learn basic life skills and learn to think of others before they make a mess? Can you refuse to allow your children to call each other names, to gossip about others, or to degrade anyone else? Can you stop watching movies or TV shows that promote the wrong message? Can you teach them how to pray?

Our society has many dark corners, making it easy to believe that life is inevitably moving in the wrong direction. But we can beat the odds if we start focusing on what really matters. This year, prioritize your relationships. Prioritize character, both in yourself and in your kids. And maybe we can finally build a culture where goodness and kindness are truly valued.

Here’s a Suggestion to Make this Stick!

Sit down and pray with your spouse about what character trait you really want to cultivate in yourself and your kids this year. Generosity? Self-control? Patience? Kindness?

Now brainstorm specific things you can do as a family to cultivate those traits! Will you help your kids learn patience by giving them an allowance and encouraging them to save for something big? Will you cultivate generosity by helping kids choose toys to give away to a shelter or teach them how to start tithing on their allowance? Will you as a family choose to give up a weekend to volunteer somewhere? Will you cultivate self-control by putting time limits on screens, or limiting desserts? Will you help your kids choose WHEN they want their desserts during the day, so that they have some control?

Really pray about it, because if we specifically choose to do family a different way, we can start to cultivate these traits in our kids.

And, as we grow closer to God, the Holy Spirit will also do His work in producing fruit!

Happy New Year’s, everyone!

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