The development of virtues

   The final objective of children’s education is for them to be able to reach their highest level of human maturity, which is manifested through mental stability, the capacity of being able to make thought out decisions and correctly judging events and other humans (Vatican Council II, Decreto Optatam totius, II). This level of maturity is a consequence of the harmonic development of virtues, not to mention that these acquired virtues help in the natural development of an individual.

   Parents generally wish for their children be organized, studious, generous, happy, honest, etc. But this wish, in order for it not to remain an unreachable ideal, must concretize itself in clear and reachable objectives.

   First of all, it should be clear that the family is the natural area within which the person develops, because it is there where the deepest aspects of a person forge relations at an intimate level. In the family, a person is accepted and is loved for who they are, and not for what they do. Parents love their children for who they are, even though if in some occasions parents do not agree with what their children do or how they behave.

   School is not a natural organism, but a cultural one, and it is through culture that parents are given support with respect to their children’s education. However, a parent’s role is much more important. It is within the family that good operative habits are developed, such as being organized, studious, generous, happy, and honest, etc. which are all human virtues. In order to achieve them, it is a must to know them and to want to make the effort to do so.

   In the process of acquiring virtues, two things must be considered: intentionality and the righteousness of intention itself. Someone can be more or less generous with friends or with anybody that may need help. The other factor is the righteousness of intention or the motive behind why we do things. It is not the same thing for a child to give a present to a friend because the “Three Kings” were poor that year, than for that same child to give the present reluctantly because he or she was obliged to do so. Virtues must be lived with righteousness of intention: they are not an end in themselves, but are lived on a voluntary basis in order to attain human maturity and the full development of the human personality.

   In order to achieve all of this, the example provided by parents is the most important aspect, which does not consist in being “perfect”, but in striving to personally excel. Later on, children can get to know these virtues through explanations and asking why those habits are valuable, and by deepening the purpose of these efforts. Self demand of the will power as well as the affective support of parents should go hand in hand with intellectual knowledge (Translated by Gianna Sanchez Moretti).

   Arturo Ramo

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