July 21, 1999

Develop kid character in 'moments'
___By Marv Knox
___SAN ANTONIO--Take advantage of "teachable moments" to build character in children, Rosa Izaguirre told parents participating in the Celebrating the Hispanic Woman conference this month.
___Izaguirre, a family counselor in McAllen, taught a discussion seminar on "Essentials for Developing Christian Character in Children" at the conference.
___Parents must take advantage of teachable moments, model character for their children and allow children to participate in character-building experiences, she stressed.
___Teachable moments are those brief minutes when something happens to cause a child to be uniquely and specifically interested in a particular thing or idea, she explained.
___Sometimes, teachable moments seem like interruptions. She illustrated by describing a scene: The mother is busy preparing dinner, and the child bursts into the kitchen. The neighbor's dog has died, and the child is brimming with curiosity about what happens to people after they die.
___"Think about the power of those next three minutes," Izaguirre said. "You will do something incredibly important in the life of your child" by briefly explaining what Christians believe about death and eternal life.
___Unfortunately, parents often get too busy and "throw those teachable moments in the trashcan," she lamented.
___"Be there, available and listening," she urged. "Be aware of your child and what's happening in his or her life. Ask questions or do things that create opportunities for teachable moments."
___If parents waste teachable moments, their children will give those opportunities for teaching to others, she warned. "Sooner or later, your children will go to whoever gives them attention and is available. It ought to be you; it might be someone whose values you don't share."
___Equally important in character development is the way parents model behavior, Izaguirre insisted.
___"Take a good look at your spiritual condition," she advised. "Can you teach something you do not know?
___"Look at your relationships with others, your relationship with God, the way you treat people, your spiritual condition. Are you being a good example?"
___The way parents live in front of their children does more to reinforce character and values than any amount of words they ever could speak, she said.
___And experiences also develop character in children, she added. "Children learn hands-on, by doing," she explained. "It only takes one quick touch of a hot iron or one bite of chili for a child to learn she doesn't want to do that again."
___Parents must be willing to allow their children to participate in experiences that will build character, she noted.
___ "Don't rescue your kids from experiences that will equip them with character," she explained.
___Parents also ought to be proactive in offering positive learning experiences, she said, advising parents to teach their children Scripture, provide them with positive music and videos, read books to them, plan fun family activities and pray for their children.

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