The teaching of these values begins at home. Respect was developed first toward one’s parents, whose responsibility it was to command (not demand) it by being authoritative role models and directors of proper moral behavior. Having been successfully “rooted,” respect extended outward to include other authority figures – teachers, police, lawmakers, employers – then further still to include every honest, law=abiding person, regardless of background or station in life. Finally, this respect would come full circle back to the child, now perhaps in his or her late adolescence, as a relatively mature sense of self-respect. It is, after all, a scriptural truth that in order to achieve respect for self, one must first give respect away, not selectively, but universally. To “love thyself” you must first “love thy neighbor” and “love thy God.” In the final analysis, then self-respect is something earned, not something that can be either learned or given.
Responsibility was learned through the doing of chores in and around the home. These acts were to be selfless; in other words, they were not compensated with money. The child was to do them because, and only because, he was a member of the family. As such, he shared in the family’s work as well as its bounty. Through the doing of chores, the child learned the value of contribution, a prime tenet of good citizenship. The child’s contributions to the family uplifted not only his own value within the family, but also the value of the family to him. This sharing, this mutuality of value, bonded the child to the values that defined the family, thus forming ‘A Family of Value.’
Resourcefulness – the ability to do a lot with relatively little – was neither earned nor learned, but rather brought forth. It is, after all, every child’s nature to be resourceful. It is not human nature to be respectful or responsible, but resourcefulness is a different matter. To bring forth the resourcefulness of a child, parents of not so long ago provided the child with everything he needed along with a small – very small, in most cases – amount of what he wanted. In short, they said “no” more often than they said “yes.” Thus, “creatively deprived,” the child had to learn to solve problems on his own. He had to do his own homework, occupy himself, solve his own social conflicts, and so on. He had to invent solutions to problems in these areas because adults, for the most part, would not solve those problems for him. Adults wanted the child to learn to “stand on his own two feet.” Therefore, they were quite conservative when it came to letting him stand on theirs.
These were the standards of good child rearing. Parents were not measured by the grades their children earned in school. Everyone knew that a child possessed of the “Three Rs” would do his or her best in school, and that was sufficient. . . Parents of generations past were measured against the standard of the “Three Rs.” If, as a parent during those times, you had succeeded in the eyes of your peers at endowing your children with adequate amounts of each “R” – and whether you had succeeded or not was self-evident – your child-rearing skills would be held in high esteem. Your friends and neighbors, therefore, would have said you “were doing a good job.” Whether your child grew up to become a doctor or a janitor was secondary to the fact that your good child rearing had all but guaranteed that whatever path he chose to walk, he would be an asset to the community.
Excerpt from Chapter 1, A Family of Value (1995), John Rosemond