This is my last piece for the year 2012 and I have taken time to advertise. I hope it to enjoy more prominence than all the pieces I have written this year. The logic is simple and I found it in the Holy Writ, ‘better is the end of a thing than the beginning.’ Hear another authority, ‘the glory of the latter shall be greater than the former.’ Young people ask me when I train them in creative writing, how do I write my best piece? I tell them your best piece is not solely a function of skill (how) but most importantly a function of time (when). My answer to them is very simple, ‘your best piece is the last piece you write before you stop writing or die.’ God through native reserves the best for the last. Therefore read this piece with care, caution and candour. I trust God it will instruct you.
This is part of my series called the Mystery of Childhood, which I began by divine inspiration last week. Today I take it further under this treatise: I, My Child and My New Year Resolution: Example as a Lasting Legacy. When I mentioned this topic to my dear and supportive wife, she queried, what about your resolution about your wife? I assured her that surely spouse comes before the children in order of relationship and that marriage relationship is the foundation for making or unmaking children.
Please note, I am not a fan of New Year Resolutions. I wrote on my Blackberry status update early this morning, ‘life is too dynamic to wait for the rituals of New Year Resolution.’ The resolution to live well and lead others to is made and sustained daily by the mercies and grace of God. I have chosen this topic to call the attention of all to a critical issue, which we cannot afford to neglect for another second. I have chosen this day, because many of us are already in the mood to receive something new. Today, I do not only come cunningly, I also came as an opportunist.
Now, let us proceed to the discussion of the day. I think to get the best of my thoughts today, please forget the first part of the topic, that is, ‘I, My Child and My New Year Resolution.’ Please pay more if not all attention to the latter part, ‘Example as a Lasting Legacy.’ It is in this latter part that I have chosen to hide the secret of this piece.
I did not see example as a legacy before I began to find and fight my way out of the impact of an abused childhood. I found that I remember many things, which my parents said but I remember more, what they did. I realised that my life was a direct product of their example. I realised that the greatest liability they left behind was their poverty. It was their example. As matter of fact, their poverty was part of their example.
Observing, my life through the eye of my childhood and the battle of transformation to responsible adulthood, which I have fought in the last 15 years through the grace of God, I came to the resolutely irresistible conclusion that one example is worth more than one million words. I also concluded that there is no inheritance that can be left for a child better than examples. I see that example sets up the child for greatness or for disgrace. What people call ancestral or generational curses are rooted in attitude, which has been passed from generation to generation and it has become of stronghold of example. It will take a stronger example to undo a prevailing example. I realised that example has a life of its own and produces after its kind.
Now, as I study the intriguing philosophy and psychology of example, I found that it is one of the mysteries of childhood. God created children to learn by example. May I be a bit extreme and yet logical and say that children do not learn except by example. They are not also led except by example. It must first be demonstrated before it is taught. Thus the popular saying, ‘children do not do what you say, they do what you do.’ I love the way Aristotle put it, ‘Character may almost be the most effective means of persuasion.’ I believe this is how it works, our examples create a PRECEDENT OF POSSIBILITY, the PRECEDENT OF POSSIBILITY create a CONSCIOUSNESS OF POSSIBILITY among your observers and a CONSCIOUSNESS OF POSSIBILITY produces an ENVIRONMENT and the ENVIRONMENT incubates and hatch like behaviour. The book that I read says, Christ was tempted in every way, yet He did not sin. Therefore He became a PRECEDENT OF POSSIBILITY for all desire to live a righteous life.
I see and hear a lot of debate on discipline and child development without definite attention on the meat of the matter: EXAMPLE. Discipline does not take place except by example. A disorganised custodian cannot teach the child to be organised. The true definition of discipline is to help a child to be conscious of his dignity of human person. A custodian, who does not respect his dignity of human person, will not teach the child dignity of human person. Any custodian, who perpetrates any form of abuse against the child loses his right and fails in his duty to discipline the child.
Which examples have the most lasting impression on the child? It is the examples of his immediate custodians, parents, guardians, teachers/instructors, friends, media, particularly New Media (internet). All these living and non-living entities lead the child by example. These entities are in two categories: the first is the parents and those approved by the parents. It is said that first impression lasts a lifetime. Maria Montessori has informed us that 80% of the personality of the child is formed between ages 2 and 6.
Every virtue and vices are taught by example. Godliness is taught by example, so it ungodliness. Love is taught by example so is hatred. Tolerance is taught by example to is intolerance. Kindness is taught by example, so is unkindness. Wisdom is taught by example so is foolishness. Peace is taught by example, so is chaos. Generosity is taught by example, so is tight-fistedness. Corruption is taught by example, so is honesty. Faithfulness is taught by example, so is infidelity. Loyalty is taught by example, so is disloyalty. Self-control is taught by example, so is indiscipline. Prudence is taught by example, so is wastefulness. Purposeful living is taught by example, so is spur-of-the-moment living. Promptness is taught by example, so is lateness. Strength is taught by example, so is weakness. Boldness is taught by examples, so is fear. Integrity is taught by example, so is crookedness of character. Excellence is taught by example, so is mediocre. Gentleness is taught by example, so is roughness. Inspiration is taught by example, so is discouragement. Graceful words are taught by example, so are harsh words. Calmness is taught by example, so is anxiety. Humility is taught by example, so is pride. Neatness is taught by example, so is messiness. Telling the truth is taught by example so is lying. Optimism is taught by example, so is pessimism. Sexual purity is taught by example, so is sexual impurity. Creativity is taught by example, so is lack of it. Dignity of labour is taught by example, so is laziness. Orderliness is taught by example, so is disorderliness. Successful marriage is taught by example, so is an unsuccessful one. Principles of greatness are taught by examples, so are the principle of self-centred living. The list is endless. Abraham Lincoln says, ‘for a man to train up a child in the way he or she should go, he must walk that way himself and come back to take the child to go with him.’
In my audio book, ‘Stories, Senses and Stones: Abused Childhood, Transformed Adulthood,’ I shared extensively all the vices, I picked from my parents, observing their lives. My father died at the age of 82 when I was 39, he never sat down to instruct on any issue of life. Please note I am not exaggerating. Or to be on the safer side, maybe I should put it this way; I cannot remember my father instructing me on any issue of life. But I have been dealing with his examples daily since February 16, 1996, yet I am still work in progress. I titled this example: ‘a test of dad’s mind power’in my audio book just mentioned above: ‘I was about 12 years old when Dad got a car loan from the National Bank and bought a two-door Volkswagen Beetle. Due to human frailty, which is common to all, dad lost the particulars of the vehicle. I followed him to the car dealer. I did not know the details of their discussion, but dad sat in the office of the dealer and wept profusely. The car dealer later got angry and retorted, ‘why is this man crying like this? Please come and remove this man out of this place o.’
I further shared in my audio book, ‘dad, needed to have been strong. The issue was not as complex as to warrant him breaking down in public. In retrospect, I wondered why dad would weep for losing the documents of his car when all he needed to do was to swear to an affidavit of disclosure, get a police report and approach the car dealer and other authorities to reissue another set of documents. I began to think that if dad could weep for losing his car documents, only God knows what he would have done if he had lost the car.’ I concluded, ‘that experience and the impression it left stayed with me for many years… Parents must be strong in the time of trouble. We must learn to provide leadership and become the mainstay of our children. Our despondency and fear should be kept to ourselves until we overcome. After overcoming the situation, we may teach our children the principles and how we took the decision that brought the family out despite the parents’ sense of fear and despondency.
There is an example is use when I disseminate one of our programs, The TeacherFIRE™ Revolution to teachers and non-academic staff in private and public schools. I think I should share it here. I titled it, ‘The Unknown Teacher and the Bathroom Slippers:’ ‘It was career day in a primary school and children were asked to come to school modelling the profession they intend to pursue in the future. A child (few weeks to her 4th birthday), who wanted to become a teacher, had a running battle with her parents, when she packed a pair of bathroom slippers. The parents insisted that a pair of bathroom slippers is not in the dress code of a teacher. The child insisted it was. When the parents further probed, the child said, ‘our teacher in some cases wear a pair of bathroom slippers to the class room to teach.’
I think our space is far spent. Permit me to make some other compelling points about example, without which I would not have done justice to this topic.
The first is that custodianship of a child is the most credible example in leadership. We will not excel in it and make indelible impacts in the lives of our children, except we first lead ourselves successfully as custodians and provide our lives as examples for the children under our care to follow. To lead ourselves successfully, we must as matter of supreme necessity submit ourselves to God by embracing the universal principles, which He has put in place to govern this world. The second point is that we must watch our company. Our company and the people we expose our children to will either reinforce our examples, where they share our philosophy of life or neutralise or replace our examples where they do not share our philosophy. The third point is that there are no minor or major examples. Our children follow all of our examples whether we try to cover it up or not. It is their God-given gift to see beyond our words and go for our example. It is called the power of observation, powered by natural intelligence. I tell custodians to be careful how they express their fears and disappointment before their children. Many parents scream hysterically in the presence of their children because they see roaches and rats. Before you know it their children follow their examples. Another point is that to do one thing and instruct our children to do the contrary is to frustrate our children and incur their anger. It is an express initiation of our children to multiple personalities. Example is the greatest inspiration for our children to live meaningful lives. Many custodians only have positional influence on their children and not inspiration. Influence works with authority. Inspiration works by example, Inspiration is what makes our children follow us. Lastly, the depth of the love respect of our children for us is by the example we show. I once spoke to a teenager (watch out for my piece on this blog, titled, ‘Conversation with an Angry Teenager’), who is very angry with his father because of his bad examples, which he took time to enumerate to me. He said and I quote, ‘I love my father because God commands so, but I do not respect him for the kind of live he lives. I do not want to be, like my father in any way.’
The question is, are we ready for the unedited opinion of our children about us?
As we move into the New Year and for the rest of our lives, I want to urge us to be conscious of the truth that the most invaluable legacy we MUST leave for our children is our example. Thomas Morell, a man who lived by godly examples admonished, ‘the first great gift we can bestow on others is a good example.’ The Holy Writ says, ‘A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children…’ I do not think the Holy Writ value physical inheritance above virtues as inheritance. Hear the Holy Writ: ‘A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favour is better than silver and gold.’
Thank you for visiting today and do have an INSPIRED New Year