Do you remember when you were young, and you’d hear an older man talking about “kids these days?” I do. I remember my grandpa talking about how kids these days just don’t respect our seniors anymore, how some of the typical character traits for kids weren’t being taught anymore. I’d think, “Does he want us to start calling him Sir or something? Maybe he wants us to ring a bell for him every time he speaks?” I didn’t know what he was talking about. Now that I’ve had a chance to work with some of the next generations of men, I’m the old guy griping about the kids these days.
The truth is, as culture has evolved over the past 20 to 30 years, some crucial character traits for kids have been lost. The world is actively engaged in a war on good character, erasing traits in a way that will have massive consequences for our kids, the people they love, and society at large. We need to emphasize these traits for kids, otherwise they will not only be at the mercy of society but will be a part of its demise. Here are 3 traits the world doesn’t want your kid to have.
Our culture doesn’t value honesty. What does it value instead? Winning. Whether it’s politicians trying to win an election, pro athletes trying to avoid a suspension, or a coach stealing the other team’s play signals, we have decided it’s more valuable to win than it is to be honest. In business, we praise dishonesty as shrewdness while honesty comes off as naivete. By honesty, I don’t just mean telling the truth, though that’s also a part of it. You also need to be the kind of person who wants to tell the truth. But it’s still even more than that. An honest person doesn’t cheat, whether anyone is looking or not. A 2009 study in Ethics & Behavior (Vol. 19, No. 1) says, “Researchers found that nearly 82 percent of a sample of college alumni admitted to engaging in some form of cheating as undergraduates.” The same article cites two studies that show how cheating on a test may make the person more likely to “break rules in the workplace, cheat on spouses and engage in illegal activities.”
Being honest means you do the right thing, even if it might cost you something in the end. For example, if your teacher gave you a better grade than you earned on a test, the right thing to do is to point it out to the teacher. If the sales clerk gives you back too much change, you give the extra back. Are you teaching your kids this kind of honesty?
Remember how contracts used to be made with a handshake? Well, neither do I, but I’ve heard about it. We’ve had to replace them with contracts that are saturated with unintelligible legalese. Why? Because people break handshake and oral agreements. Our culture doesn’t value reliability nearly as much as it values individualism. If something I want to do conflicts with a commitment I made to you, my commitment to you gets the shaft. According to a Pew Research study, 49% of Americans attribute “the decline in interpersonal trust to a belief that people are not as reliable as they used to be.”
As Zig Ziglar says, “Ability is important in our quest for success, but dependability is critical.” Being reliable means I do what I say I’m going to do even if it costs me personally to follow through. When you tell your boss you will complete a project, do you do it? When you tell your pastor you will be there to help with an event, do you show up? We used to say that “your word is your bond.” When our kids say they will do something, do we hold them to it? When they promise to mow the lawn in exchange for a new video game, do we hold them accountable for their commitment?When we don’t have humility, we’re unteachable.
This might be the biggest one. I still remember when the press started celebrating the hubris of someone famous. It stood out to me because we celebrated humility until that point. We didn’t exalt people who thought a lot of themselves. We exalted people who served and thought of others. Today, we’re teaching kids to have hubris about everything. We want athletes who strut across the field after a big play as though their solo effort made it happen. We exalt celebrities who talk about how awesome they are, not even mentioning the hundreds of people it took for them to shine in the spotlight.
When we don’t have humility, we’re unteachable. We falsely believe we know better than everyone else, so who could possibly teach me anything? How will we fix the many issues we face in modern society if no one can be corrected? Am I showing our kids an example of humility, even when I might deserve the praise? Am I teachable? Do my kids see me seeking advice from older and wiser people?
Sound off: What are some other important traits for kids?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What character traits do you think are important to have?”