The Character Movement


By Joe Cavanaugh, Founder & CEO

At a recent rotary presentation, there was time for one more question. I had been speaking about the state of our young people’s character and how it affects school climate. Someone asked, “What is the biggest issue with kids today?”

Looking at my watch, I intuitively blurted out, “Time. We don’t take time anymore.” People nodded and smiled and we all rushed out to our next meeting.

My memories of springtime are filled with seemingly endless time enjoying the change of season: snow melting into slush in the streets, the sweet song of cardinals in the budding trees, the chilly first game of catch with my old mitt and ball. I felt renewed by the spring thaw. In this modern world of such finite time, these experiences are replaced with jumping over puddles while rushing late into the house, cell phone conversations drowning out the songs of birds and overly structured indoor batting practice that begins and ends exactly on time.

When we are overwhelmed with busy tasks, each day become a blur. Too often the very critical task of raising kids of good character becomes just one more task in the long list of things we can’t quite get around to – because it takes the most time of all.

When we are squeezing 27 hours into a 24-hour day, we struggle to hear the quiet whisper of our conscience or our parental gut. In between checking emails and pushing “send,” we try to find time to connect with our children. The other day, my daughter said, “Talk to me,” when I was trying to sneak in a phone call while running a few errands with her. I thought I was multi-tasking. I was doing neither task well. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to be thoughtful, purposeful, compassionate and deliberate parents when we are harried and don’t take intentional time to be present with our children.

Young people need to know that we have time for them, that we will be there on those precious occasions when they take us up on the chance to connect and deepen our relationships. We owe it to them to take advantage of the time we do have. It means being present when we are there, even when the nagging list of tasks is heavy on our minds. Raising kids of character takes time – and lots of it.

Here are a few ideas on time that I turn to:

– Unplug on Saturday or Sunday – no TV, iPad or email.
– Go for a walk around the block as a family before or after dinner.
– Try not to talk on your cell when you are in a car with your kids.

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