Poise — The Antidote to Dumb and Dumber
The Importance of Building Character Part V:
It’s the beginning of a new year, and there is no better time to set some fresh goals. As moms, ours probably include something to do with those few extra pounds we accumulated over the holidays and the ongoing challenge of de-stressing our lives. Come to think of it, maybe if we weren’t so stressed out, we wouldn’t turn to Moon Pies and Doritos to comfort us. Oh, well. The vicious cycle!
I’d like to suggest that we also start this year out with a renewed determination to make character-building a top priority with our children. I think most parents know that building their child’s character is part of their job description, and most parents even set out to do just that. But like so many important intentions (think diets and de-stressing), they get lost in the shuffle of real life.
So let’s start this year out with a character trait from which we can all benefit and one that has some immediate results. I like to call it “poise,” or as my husband Tim defines it, “A keen sense of the appropriate.” Poise is that ability to balance between the extremes of life. Without some coaching, our kids can be way out there in left field much of the time. (Earth to kid — come in, kid!)
Our children need to be taught to balance between the extremes of life when it comes to their emotions, their social skills, their interaction with the opposite gender, their family and friend relationships, and their impulses. How many times have you watched your kids do something really stupid or say something extremely embarrassing and thought, “Wow, I can’t believe they just said that,” or, “They really don’t have a clue in this area of life,” or even, “Maybe if I act like I don’t know them, no one will suspect I’m their mother.”
When we build poise into a child’s character, we are proving to be compassionate parents by anticipating their needs and doing something to minimize potential harm and maximize potential gain. Actually, that’s what all character-building does for our children — prepares them to succeed in the future.
A compassionate parent teaches his or her child how to express emotions without taking out the wall, how to win graciously and lose with his or her dignity still intact. When we build poise into their hearts, we show them how to navigate the highs and lows of friendships and even responsibly and confidently step into the arena of the opposite sex. Poise helps our children know how to handle an emergency and keep a cool head. Poise enables our kids to feel competent whether there are five silver forks at their place or just a paper napkin and a plastic “spork” there.
Gifting our children with poise — a keen sense of the appropriate — is a confidence builder not only in our children’s ability to be prepared for life’s challenges, but also in us as their primary mentor. Once our children are out in the world, they will either be grateful for all we taught them or bitter for the many things for which we failed to prepare them. A person equipped with poise will be grateful for the numerous ways he or she has been spared from an awkward moment and thankful for the ways he or she been equipped with confidence to take on what life dishes up.
We have raised four children and, as adults, they are moving among people and in circles every day that call for a balanced position and a poised response. Just like us, they don’t always get it right, but they are far more self-assured and adequate for all that God brings into their lives. To encourage you as you commit to building poise into your child’s character, here are some of the ways we built poise into the hearts of our own four children:
10 Ways to Teach and Model Poise to your Children
- Teach your children to resolve conflict in an honorable way. (See Ephesians 4:25–32 for some great guidelines.)
- Invite a foreign student into your home for a meal and visit. Have your children prepare questions beforehand to find out more about their guest.
- Have your children write notes or emails of thanks to people who regularly help them (i.e., teachers, friends, coaches, youth leaders, their pastor).
- The next time you experience one of “Life’s Most Embarrassing Moments,” use it as an opportunity to tell your kids how you felt and what you did.
- Prepare a fancy dinner using the best china and silverware. Have everyone dress up and use this occasion to teach your children proper etiquette for that situation.
- Take your children through a mock interview to prepare them for their first job interview.
- Teach your children how to take care of their own clothing and keep it ready to wear.
- Fathers, take your daughters through a fashion magazine and discuss modesty and beauty with her. Let her do most of the talking. Chime in with kudos for poised choices.
- Have a father/daughter or a mother/son date and use this occasion to coach them in appropriate behavior and conversation (great for pre-adolescence).
- Next time you see an umpire or official make a bad call, talk to your child about the reaction of the athletes.
Twelve months from now, our children will all be a year older. Why not make it one of your goals this year to be sure they are not only older but wiser as you build the character trait of poise into their hearts?