How to foster certain virtues.
We live in a culture that says that having a lot of stuff, is good. To possess many things is actually the goal. To earn more money in order to have a larger home, a better car, the latest iPhone, more toys, more gadgets... Are these things bad in themselves? No, they are not; but a disordered desire and pursuit of them keep us from discovering, seeking and enjoying the real joys of life: friendship, love of neighbor, beauty, generosity, etc. Disordered desire for material possessions puts the focus on us, makes us self centered and takes away from our ability to love others, which is were the key to happiness is. If we want our children to be happy, we have to show them through “sobriety”, that happiness is not found in material things but in self-giving.
Sobriety is part of the virtue of temperance and is related to the moderation in the desire to possess things. It can also to refer to moderation in the use of alcohol but I am going to stick to the moderation in the desire to possess things.
That is why I want to talk about the virtue of sobriety which is a virtue that may not be in fashion but it’s important. Yes, we also have to live sobriety despite living in this affluent society. Again, like with any other virtue, if we want our children to live sobriety we have to give them the example. As Alvaro de Vicente, Head Master of The Height school in Potomac, Maryland, said recently in one of his talks: "Just because we are older and are making all the money it doesn’t mean we need a preferential treatment."
Three principles to have in mind:
What are superfluous or unnecessary things? Brand name clothes for example. If everyone wears a Vineyard Vine shirt we might be tempted to buy it but is it necessary?
It’s understandable that parents don’t want their children to lack what others have, or what they themselves lacked when they were growing up. But this doesn’t mean we should give them everything they want. As I said earlier: Offer kids what they NEED, not just what they WANT. We should teach our children not to make comparisons with the Jones’ or to try to imitate them in everything, as it can lead to a materialistic and superficial mentality.
My son was telling me the other day how much it helped him the fact that when he was in HS and everyone was going to school in very expensive cars and he had to first ride the bus and then ride a scooter! Can you imagine what he looked liked against the BMW’s and Range Rovers?
Teaching sobriety should be taught positively, helping children understand –explaining the why and teaching them to think- how to keep and use properly what they have, their clothes and toys and other things. Ask them: do you really need this?
There is this mexican family I know, who were 11 kids and they had maids, cooks, a chauffeur, went to private schools, lived in a big house in a big neighborhood, etc. Despite all this, the youngest daughter thought they were poor because everytime she asked her dad for something he would invariably say: "Oh no, we don't have many for that." When he died she realized how wealthy they were and how wonderful her dad had been in teaching her sobriety. He wasn't lying, he was saying he didn't have money for those things that were no necessary.
In order for them to habitually go without the unnecessary things, you have to present your children with higher ideals, higher goods –visit the elderly, help someone in need- as these will bring a deeper satisfaction and true happiness. David Isaacs says that: "Having a profound contact with the GOOD, the good in contrast with suffering, brings immense benefits when educating in virtue."
This is the most difficult one to live unless we are forced too because the breadwinner of the family loses his/her job, the family loses everything due to a natural catastrophe (as it happened recently in Houston with hurricane Harvey).
So many times, we need to consciously, make a point and go without some necessary things.
We can start with something not so necessary: the cereal or drink we like, etc. "There’s no juice in the morning!" First world problem. "Hey, no complaining." Nutella is it really necessary?
This being above material goods, brings joy.
So think about these principles when doing your Christmas shopping for example. Or go over the toys with your children and ask them, which ones do they use, which ones they can give away.
As a consequence, living by these principles will help you and especially your children live sobriety in the use of alcohol.
As with every virtue that I mentioned, our children live it at the beginning because we demand it from them but then, they gradually live it
because they want to!
The contents of this lecture were taken from different sources:
Educar la Voluntad by Fernando Corominas
Several lectures given by David Isaacs
Hijos Felices. La educación de las Virtudes by Diego Ibañez Langlois
Pilar Caranti holds a Masters in Psychology from the Catholic University of Argentina. She is a Certified Professional Life Coach. Family topics and the education of children are her passion. She has given many lectures on parenting topics like: forming the will of our children, authority, education of leisure, pornography, etc.