GREENVILLE – A large and appreciative audience turned out to hear family life expert James B. Stenson at St. Joseph’s Catholic School Nov. 14-15. The occasion was Family Fest 2003.
Stenson was full of facts, figures, and advice, but the advice wasn’t technical.
“These folks don’t want me to tell them how to potty train their infant,” he told The Miscellany. “They’re interested in the moral and intellectual formation of their children. They want to know how to raise children who will be morally successful men and women, despite the temptations they face.”
He offered no secret formulas for success in child rearing, but passed on the wisdom that hundreds of successful parents taught him over the years.
“A key is to treat your children as adults in the making. Look ahead 20 years. Try to visualize them as people who will exercise judgment, responsibility, personal fortitude and heart.”
Stenson said that children should not be considered grown up when they can take care of themselves, but when they can take care of others. And he stressed what he called the four pillars of civilized humans.
“Teach your children to say ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘You have my word of honor.’ Without those pillars, we are today turning out technically schooled barbarians.”
He gave a humorous interpretation to some of his facts. He said that it has been quantified that women speak more than men, about 25,000 words a day compared to less than 15,000 for men. One woman told him: “That’s because we have to repeat everything.”
Stenson urged parents to teach their children to internalize the concept of integrity. Once they appreciate that integrity means the unity of intention, thought and action, he said, they can succeed. He urged them to start early.
“Once puberty begins, they are adults in everything except experience. One secret I did learn was this: after age 13 or 14, treat your children as adults who need only experience. Tell them ‘I trust your integrity, your honesty; I don’t trust your judgment, temporarily.’ But if they become persons of character and conscience, they will become immensely popular to persons of the opposite sex.”
The educational consultant and author, who never married, said he has dedicated his life to service to the church and to assisting parents who want to raise the kind of adults who will practice integrity.
“I want to help those who take their faith seriously and who cringe at the moral corruption of today’s children. A parent should tell his child every single day: ‘I love you,’” Stenson said.