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How much influence do you have on your children’s character? How important are the early years of a child’s life? A study done a year ago by Demos, a UK-based social policy think tank, validates what we all know deep inside. “parents are children’s primary character builders. Parents who combine warmth and consistency – a style described in the report as ‘tough love’, and also known as authoritative parenting – are the most successful in developing the character capabilities in their children that underpin healthy, happy, successful adult life” (BC Council for Families, Nov. 27, 2009, http://www.bccf.ca/professionals/blog/2009-11/building-character).

As a former foster parent I have seen the damage a poor parent can cause on the emotions and character of a child during their early years.

Conversely, I have also seen children who, because of the truths they internalized as a child, have become wonderful young adults.

Last night we were at the home of some friends and their fourth child, a young man who is a senior in high school, sat down with us to visit while his parents were kept coming and going. He is friendly, tall, handsome, plays power forward on his school’s basketball team (scores half the points), sings, has taken 1st, and 2nd place in a regional speech / writing competition for the last two years and is a great student. His plans for his future include an academic scholarship to a school that is hard to get into, or to attend a lesser known college that focuses on statesmanship. His major will be political science, with the intent to pursue law school as the natural course toward becoming involved in the government of his nation. This is a young man who has the talents, and desires to do wonderful things, and it began with his early years when his parents passionately taught him and his siblings the lessons he has internalized.

There are no guarantees, some children will not choose the path you’d hope despite your best efforts, but more often they do. The rare case is the person raised without the values of honesty, kindness, loyalty, and other basic truths, who then chooses a Christian life for himself.

A child’s early years, birth through five, are foundational years when they are developing motor, cognitive, and social skills. It is during these years that they form their basic concepts of right and wrong. If they do not learn that there are absolutes, they may later adopt the philosophy of situational ethics.

Last night, while many young adults were making poor choices elsewhere, we were talking to a young man about Montesquieu and fair trade vs. free trade. He knew the difference between a politician and a statesman, and has desires to become the later.

It is worth all the patience, repetition, perseverance, and love a parent has.