Parenting: On Virtue
When we speak about moral character, maturity and happiness we are talking about virtue. A virtue is simply a good habit just as a vice is a bad habit. So a virtue is a disposition to act well readily. An act is good and moral if it leads one to God and thus our happiness. Happiness, therefore, is the goal of all moral acts and virtue. If it is repeated so that a firm disposition is established to make it "easy" to do, it is a habit.
A morally good character is one that is inclined to what is good. Maturity is self possession to think and act rightly with stability of character.
Until Bill Bennett's book on virtues the word "virtue" was lost to modern society as being part of a time that seemed to be no longer relevant. Although the word has returned we have still lost the skills to analyze the virtue so that we can better communicate it and grow as we ought. Thus we need practical questions that will draw our attention to the nature of virtue and its role in our lives. For example, if we ask the question of a group of adults or adolescence, "What are the ingredients or values of a healthy family?" or "What qualities do you want to see in a friend?" You will receive a list of virtues.
We can then think about the nature of any particular virtue and look for objectives that will help our children or ourselves acquire the virtue in practical ways. For example, some of the qualities of orderliness has to do with organizing and carrying out activities. Thus, the instructions to a child to put away their toys, put the books back in the bookcase, or setting the table becomes exercises in orderliness. Thinking about what we do know and what we need to do in order to develop virtue is the task at hand.
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, Dr. Patrick J. DiVietri,
Family Life Institute, 7502 Diplomat Drive Ste. B, Manassas, VA 20109
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