By Author Pat Lamb
I well remember my dad telling my sisters and me, “If you won’t listen, you’ll have to learn the hard way!”
Listening to the descriptions of the experiences of those who have lived in the past is an easy way to learn. As Memorial Day approaches, we have an opportunity to describe the experiences of those who have gone before us to help our children learn.
What can children learn by listening to descriptions of the past? They can learn of some things people did that worked well, some things people did that did not work well, and they can gain some inspiration to make their own lives count.
Memorial Day is certainly a time to remember veterans who have fought for our freedom, but it is also a time to remember our relatives of the past who made significant accomplishments. It would be well for parents to find specific stories to read or tell to children both about veterans and their own relatives. Stories about veterans help children appreciate the freedom they enjoy. Stories of past relatives provide roots and a feeling of self worth. Good stories of past relatives instill a sense of pride and motivate a child to want to “measure up” to family history.
It is a good idea to take children to a cemetery on Memorial Day and reverently walk through and observe some of the tombstones. There will undoubtedly be a few graves of people who died at a very young age. A discussion of how some of the people may have died could include a discussion of the use of drugs and alcohol. This lesson is far more effective than any lecture in a classroom. The children can see for themselves that the use of drugs and alcohol is definitely something that did not work well for these individuals. It would be well for parents to point out specific cases with which they are familiar of instances where results were not good. For example, some of the young people may have died from car accidents where they were driving too fast.
One goal in raising children should be to help children decide in their own minds what is best. Telling is not teaching. In fact, if we lecture children, they often rebel. We want them to settle in their own minds what is right. If they can make these decisions when they are young, when the challenging teen years come, they have already decided and do not have to doubt. The visual image of a tombstone in the mind of a young person might well stay until the teen years and be present when that first driver’s license is issued or when temptations to use drugs or alcohol comes.
Children don’t have to “reinvent the wheel” if they will listen to stories of the past and base their decisions on those things that have already been tried and failed, or those things which have been tried and succeeded. It is easier to learn by listening and seeing than to have to try everything for oneself.