One of my favorite poems was written by a woman named Rachael Beck. It is titled "Character," and I want to share it with you.

CHARACTER

By Rachael Beck

What a drag it is to build that kid's character!

I know it's better for him if he learns to clean the sink and tub,

wash dishes, take out papers and cans for recycling,

and return those returnable bottles.

I know it's important for himto learn responsibility at home;

but I'm exhausted

by the time I ask him,

persuade him,

coerce him,

listen to him tell me

he'll get to it – whatever the request-

as soon as he gets a break in his homework,

his music, or during the next TV commercial,

and then he doesn't move

till we go through it all again!

How long must I build his character?

When may I just do the chores myself?

Every parent can relate to Rachael's words. Each of us has tried to instill a work ethic and good character in our children. The task is not an easy one. At times we feel as though we are speaking in foreign tongues because our children behave as if they do not understand us.

Nothing worthwhile in life comes easily. If parents want their children to act responsibly and perform household chores, a set routine should be established when the child is young. If a 4-year-old is trained to put dirty dishes in the sink and toys back in the toy chest, by the time that child gets to be 10, those behaviors will be automatic.

Parents may get frustrated by having to repeat instructions often. But, that's what teaching and training are all about. Just think of your verbal cues to your child as similar to a piano teacher's method of getting a child to learn the correct fingering. Each time the new piano student sits at the keyboard, the teacher says the same thing – for a long time. Finally, after months and years of practice, the child may finally be able to play a song without verbal cues. In the same way, your child CAN learn to do basic chores around the house.

One word of caution. DO NOT be lazy or inconsistent with your parental requests. If on one day you care about the child picking up toys but on another day you do it for him, the mixed message will not only confuse the child but also allow him to think you really don't mean what you say. As the last phrase of Beck's poem suggests – if you don't keep after your child, you'll end up doing all of his chores yourself.

(IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANOTHER EDUCATION AND FAMILY TOPIC WITH DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: jsmith798@sc.rr.com OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.