Abe Lincoln’s Best Advice

“A child is a person who is going to carry on whatever you have started. He is going to sit where you are sitting and when you are gone, attend to those things which you think are important. You may adopt all the policies you please, but how they will be carried out depends on him. He will assume control of your cities, states and nations. He is going to move in and take over your churches, schools, universities, and corporations. Your books are going to be judged, accepted or condemned by him. The fate of humanity is in his hands. So it might be well to pay him some attention.”
– Abraham Lincoln

“He is going to…attend to those things which you think are important.”

What do you think is important? Did you (Do you) consciously, proactively, knowingly teach those things to your children?

Surprisingly, most people don’t. Children, to a great extent in their first six years and to a slightly lesser extent during the following five years, form and reform concepts of their world frequently. Not your world, but the one they perceive with their senses and conceptualize with their minds.

Their entire existence rests within the concept they form of their world, usually based on what they observe from their parents, what they are taught by their parents and how they are treated by their parents. If their parents have extensive social skills, the kids will pick them up whether the lessons are taught formally or not. They will fare better if the parents teach pertinent social skills (such as how to make and keep friends, how to treat casual friends and classmates) rather than requiring the children to pick them up vicariously.

What children don’t learn by watching is emotional skills, knowledge to advance their emotional development, especially in a small family with only one child. These kinds of skills–how to cope with life’s problems and downturns–need to be taught and learned through experience and lessons from parents.

Will your child “assume control of your cities, states and nations” and “take over your churches, schools, universities, and corporations” as you move on, the way Lincoln said? Yes, but only a very few of them will. Those who receive a balanced upbringing, with equal emphasis on intellectual, physical, social and emotional development will have the ability to assume leadership roles.

Don’t the smartest ones reach the top? Not usually. The people who reach the top of situations such as Lincoln described have had thorough and balanced development in the four streams listed in the previous paragraph, but they also have a great deal of drive and determination to excel. These they usually pick up from their parents, though other sources (mentors) are possible.

Most people in our various societies are drones that get by with sufficient knowledge and skills in what they need to know and do, but know little else beyond that. An architect may not be able to sort recyclables on trash pickup day. A factory worker may know how to change a flat tire, but not how to economize on fuel efficiency and eliminate as much pollution as possible from his vehicle.

We all depend on others to do for us what we can’t or don’t know how to do ourselves. Mostly we don’t do these things because we never learned how. We weren’t taught by a parent or grandparent. Most of us know very little and can do very little beyond what we do for a living and what we do as hobbies.

We can’t do what we never learned how to do. Most of the fundamentals of what we can do we learned from our parents, either by watching them or by learning from lesson they taught. Or we were prompted by them or some experience we had.

As children we depend on our parents to help us form our world. If they don’t help with that (and many don’t do it actively and knowingly), we grow up with many misconceptions, misinformation or ignorance about many subjects we should be able to get by with.

Sadly, there are few classes where parents can learn what they need to know and do to be parents and what they need to teach their children to help them with their various kinds of development. Every parent tries to do their best, but few know what they need to know.

Maybe you could get together with some others of your neighbours and encourage your board of education or school administration to launch such a program.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents who want to know what their children need and when they need it.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

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