Sunday, June 27, 2010

Children Will Listen, Part 2

Continuing a discussion on the topic started yesterday.  As always, I welcome your comments!

Proverbs 22:6 - "Train up a child in the way s/he should go, and when s/he grows up, s/he will not depart from it."  That is essentially the same admonishment as "Children will listen."  But you will notice perhaps one slight, but reassuring difference.  The scripture says "and when s/he grows up..."  Whew!  That doesn't say anything about before they grow up!  There are frequently lots of detours taken along the path to being grown up. And we all know that children grow up at different rates, and lessons taught may not be understood until much later in a child's life. Not seeing the sprouts does not mean they are not there taking root, deep inside the hearts and minds of our children.

It is a relief also to know that children learn from a variety of sources, and that when parents fail to lead exemplary lives, there can be influential people around them who do live lives worthy of honor. Even if we are not parents in the strictest definition of the word, we all can behave as honorable "de facto" parents, and help to fill in the gaps left by the oversights and errors of even the best of mothers and fathers.  This truth has been borne out in a number of sociological studies of  "Invulnerables" and "Vulnerables," those children identified in early life as being high risk, who are either "resilient" despite their circumstances, or "unresilient" as a result of similar difficult circumstances.   

Two sociologists by the name of "...Werner and Smith conducted a 30-year longevity study that followed 623 children born in 1955 on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, from birth to adulthood. The study group consisted of the children and grandchildren of immigrants who left the poverty of their Asian or European homelands to work in the sugar or pineapple plantations on the island of Kauai. Werner and Smith (1982) designated one-third of the subjects "high-risk" because of a combination of factors, including extreme poverty, family instability and poor parenting skills, parental lack of education, and parental psychopathology. They found that one-third of the indexed "high-risk" group revealed evidence of resilience (Werner & Smith, 1982). These subjects grew into 'competent and autonomous young adults who worked well, played well, loved well, and expected well' (Werner & Smith, 1982, p.153). Werner and Smith (1982) categorized the results into three types of protective attributes that supported resilience: dispositional attributes of the individual, affectional ties with the family, and external support systems in the environment. During early childhood, resilient high-risk boys and girls experienced fewer illnesses and their parents perceived them to be very active, affectionate, and socially responsive (Werner & Smith, 1982). During the first two years of life, resilient youngsters displayed self-help skills and adequate sensorimotor and language development; in middle school, resilient children possessed adequate problem-solving, communication skills and perceptual-motor development (Werner & Smith, 1982). In late adolescence, resilient teens possessed a high degree of internal locus of control, a positive self-esteem, and an achievement-oriented attitude, and in early adulthood, resilient subjects were able to draw upon numerous informal sources of support within their environment and expressed a desire to "improve themselves" (Werner & Smith, 1982). The authors clarified their findings by stating that resilience does not mean that these children never experienced distress. Werner and Smith (1982) summarized their findings by stating, 'along the way we learned that both vulnerability (susceptibility to negative developmental outcomes) and resiliency (successful adaptation following exposure to stressful life events) are relative concepts that do not preclude change over time'(p.73)." (From:IDENTIFYING THE RESILIENT CHILD: AN EMERGING TREND FOR AMERICA’S INNER-CITY SCHOOLS by Jane Thielemann, University of Houston.)

From the same report cited above:

"Another powerful attribute found to influence resilient children is a supportive caregiver that has high expectations for the child. In a 30-year longitudinal study with the children of Kauai, Werner and Smith (1982) found that the resilient children identified in the study had a close bond with a caregiver who offered nurturing attention during the first years of life, thereby establishing a strong sense of trust. This caregiver usually was the mother or father; however, other individuals, such as grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and older siblings, often served as alternative caregivers if the parents were unable. (Italics are mine - ptc)

"Peng, Lee, Wang, and Walberg (1991) used the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS) database of the U.S. Department of Education from 1988 to identify unique characteristics and experiences of low socio-economic (SES), urban students who displayed high scores on a national normed test of reading and mathematics. Peng et al. (1991) found that these students "felt internally controlled, interacted often with parents, and attended schools where learning was emphasized" (p. 49). Peng et al. (1991) found that the parents of these students had high expectations for their children and, thus, exerted pressure on the child to work diligently toward academic achievement. Masten (1994) also found this attribute important and described the common elements of parents who serve in the "protective attribute" role for resilient children. These parents encouraged the undertaking of new challenges that they felt their child could handle and provided opportunities for confidence-building experiences. Rutter (1979) described a good relationship with a parent as one in which the child experiences a high level of acceptance and nurturing and a low level of criticism.

"However, not all resilient children had close relationships with their parents; instead, some resilient children reached beyond their parents to others who would act as caregivers. In a study of children with mentally ill mothers, Musick et al. (1987) stated that having access to outside others allowed for a changing experience in which failings of the past could be mastered and success could be achieved beyond that which would have been predicted. (Italics are mine - ptc) Cowen and Work (1988) identified the coping skills of resilient children by describing their ability to distance themselves from family or friends who were distressed in order to accomplish constructive goals."

In light of the evidence today that more and more parents are abrogating their responsibilities to their families and expecting our schools, television, and movies to do their job for them, I feel an enormous responsibility to be careful and mindful of all children. "The shallowness of our moral comprehension, the incapacity to sense the depth of misery caused by our own failures is a simple fact of fallen humanity which no explanation can cover up." (Abraham Heschel) A depressing and very discouraging statement, and sometimes such thoughts and can lead us to throw up our hands, rationalize our inaction, and say "What can I do?  How could I possibly make a difference?  What is required of me that I could actually accomplish?" There is an answer, from Micah 6:8 - "God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." Do, love, walk...all words of action. We need to be mindful, and get busy!

You just never know who may be listening and watching...we are all mirrors that brightly reflect (whether we want to or not!)
Gentle reader, I wish for you an open heart, an open mind, and open eyes - to all around you, and


Photo above use by permission and through the courtesy of:

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. I just took a class on Parenting Teens and one of the main tenets was to Not do for them what they can do for themselves.