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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
           Monday, April 21 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmasterShould children be happy? 2

If you think children should be given every opportunity to be happy (I think the final decision rests with them), is it also proper to afford them as much support as you can to develop what is now called self-esteem or, in former times, more commonly called confidence or self-confidence? Though I doubted that my dad really wanted me to be happy as a child, I've never doubted that he decidedly did not want me to be very confident in my self-image. And I've heard of many even more crippling attacks by parents on their children's self-images. Dad never called me a "piece of ----" like many dads are accused of doing (and I don't doubt), but he often said things to his sons that seemed calculated to make us doubt our adequacy and I think most psychologists would say, to doubt ourselves. "How do you think you'll ever survive in the Army?" was one of his favorites. And probably the most crippling one and the most common among other parents was a complete withholding of approval when one of his children had done some accomplishment or deed that other people praised.

When I was at Johnstown College, Professor Katherine McClure played a tape recording of a portion of an address by one of the top professional public speakers of that era, Dr. Kenneth MacFarland, who was employed by General Motors for the main purpose of bolstering public confidence in the growth of the United States economy. MacFarland could have you rolling on the floor in one moment in laughter and wiping tears of emotion off your cheeks a few minutes later. I asked Dr. McClure to let me borrow the tape so I could copy it and subsequently played it to audiences of my own. One of my favorite jokes by MacFarland was about a preacher who told people, "my wife promised God when we got married, if He would make me successful, she would keep me humble."

My dad and even to a lesser extent my mother seemed to practice that principle even before they heard McFarland's speech. Part of a parent's job is to keep the children humble, they seemed to believe. Part of that was probably their view of how easy it is to "spoil" children by instilling fantasies in their heads, or allowing or encouraging them to pursue their own fantasies. By the time I was a parent, drawing on what I'd been taught in some of the best universities in the nation, but also influenced by my own youthful fantasies and ambitions, the prevailing wisdom was that you should encourage any expression of individuality or talent seen in a child, lest you snuff it out and something of value be lost of posterity. Even more important, a meaningful life might be lost to the child.

I've heard respected preachers say that whenever a youth expresses a desire to enter the ministry, the best response is to discourage it. Only those who are truly called by God should become preachers, and if the calling is real, you won't be able to dissuade the candidate. How could you dissuade one who God wants to persuade? If your arguments work to undermine the youth's resolve, he should never have been a minister anyway. Perhaps this was the philosophy our parents applied not to the ministry but to every proposal or expression of ambition heard from their offspring.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

 You can't lose

Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't— you're right.

— Henry Ford

Thought for today

We should know that according to the Fathers, there are eight kinds of thought that attack us. The first is gluttony; the second, lust; the third, avarice; the fourth, depression; the fifth, anger; the sixth, despair; the seventh, vainglory; the eighth, pride.

— John of Damascus, 676 - 777
Quoted in Daily Vitamins for Spiritual Growth, Anthony M. Coniaris

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