What is the most important gift we can give our child during the few short years parents exercise major influence? Could it be that giving them a strong moral and ethical framework is the most important task we face? The voices are few, but they are growing - voices that say that ethics is the missing link in the world today. Voices that say that virtues need to be taught to our children in schools. Voices expressed in such books as "The Quiet revolution; Encouraging Positive Values in our Children" where we are told about a revolution in education that is taking place in the Oxford Education Authority in the UK, based on positive concepts such as honesty, truthfulness, respect, happiness, peace, responsibility and love. During the school year children are exposed to 22 similar concepts because the headmaster sees values as the foundation of education, of the healthy development of the child and indeed of the strength of the national community.
Religions identify more that 300 virtues as the basis of their teachings, but the author of "The Family Virtues Guide" has limited herself to a more manageable 52 - one for each week of the year - and reading this book was like a breath of fresh air in a smoke-filled room. Compiled by the Virtues Project, an international organization dedicated to inspiring spiritual growth in young and old alike, this multicultural, interfaith handbook has been prepared for all those who wish to turn these 52 virtues into reality by providing us with simple strategies which we can readily incorporate into our daily life and thus take advantage of those quickly passing teachable moments. All religions have their own version of the Golden Rule - do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Likewise virtues are the silver thread running through all humanity's sacred literature, the traditions of indigenous peoples, all religions, faiths and cultures. Virtues are the qualities of the soul.
We should be concerned about virtues, not only because virtuous people are good people - it goes deeper than that. In each of us there is a deep spiritual need, a yearning of the soul which is often misinterpreted as physical or material neediness. How many of us believe that if only we had more popularity, money, love, power or a better job, we would be happy? Yet when we try to fill this longing by something physical or material - something outside ourselves - we remain unsatisfied. We need to connect to our spiritual self, some would say connect with God, to feel that we are a complete, whole person. The author likens a child to an acorn with the potential to grow into a great oak - born with all the virtues waiting to grow. But just as a tree requires right the right environment to grow, so virtues in a child need tender loving care to develop. In today's world of latchkey children, it is easy to believe that if we satisfy our child's physical needs we are being good parents. But a child needs more and this book helps us to understand and implement part of what is missing. This book should be read by all thoughtful, loving parents who want their child to develop into the oak tree that is their potential.
The introduction tells us what we can expect from this book: "The Guide is a how-to manual for applying virtues in everyday life, for supporting each other to set spiritual goals. It is a guide to a simple language of spirituality - the virtues themselves. Some call it the language of the heart." Each virtue begins with a small inspirational quotation from the holy book of one of the world's religions and has an explanation of its meaning, why and how we should practice it and how we measure success in implementing it. The concept is well thought through, well presented and easy to follow.
Parents are the child's first teacher, yet most of us become parents with little training and prior preparation for such easily overlooked areas as teaching virtues. Very quickly children are launched into the world of television, materialism and advertising where they are exposed to values representing the opposite of ethics, integrity and love. For those who feel that endowing our children with virtues is important, "The Family Virtues Guide" is a very valuable contribution.