Character and Abstinence
Teaching character serves several purposes. Among them; improves social skills, develops strong internal control, builds thinking skills for positive decision making and problem solving skills, and ultimately, produces habits and virtues that lead to a more healthy and fulfilled life. The skills associated with character development and “emotional intelligence” shape our lives, including sexual attitudes and behaviors. Self-control and empathy are critical in developing “emotional intelligence” and maturity for successful life-long relationships, especially, the sexual relationship within marriage. It is for that reason that Maturing in Body and Character intends to develop children’s habits governing their internal controls and skills prior to teaching about their upcoming sexual development and associated responsibilities.
The Personal Responsibility Act, which was signed into law in 1996, spells out the connection between setting a standard of sexual behavior and self-sufficiency. In order for teens to succeed in controlling their sexual behavior, they must have self-control and persistence. These character qualities are complex combinations of several other qualities such as obedience, orderliness, industriousness, respect for others and responsibility. Time and guidance are needed to develop these combinations of skills. It is only fair that if parents and society set expectations, that parents and schools overtly and systematically train their children in the complex character skills required to meet them.
Children are physical, emotional, social and spiritual in nature. Effective character education must address all these aspects in order for the child to fully integrate its benefits into his/her life. Character education must begin with factual information. The facts are then tied to the emotional aspects of the individual. This process helps children value the results of good character. To mature, one must translate this “moral knowing” and “moral feeling” into “moral action;” into social or relational consequences and benefits. The connection must be made clear. Skills, which teach the child how to cope within the guidelines of character, enable the expected character qualities to emerge. The spiritual (the child’s conscience) provides an internal check and balance system which measures respect, fairness and justice. These qualities develop with training much like muscles develop with a fitness program. It is the responsibility of families and schools to give direct instruction on the expected behaviors that are in the child’s best interest. They must also provide ample opportunities for children to demonstrate and be reinforced for those behaviors, which are right and good‑ even when adults are not present. This becomes especially apparent in adolescence, particularly, with the issues surrounding sexual health.
The development of these habits of doing what is right and good will is especially important for the child as she/he faces issues of maturity (puberty) and sexual health during adolescence. Parents and teachers have a duty and responsibility to help children translate their values, thoughts and feelings into actions which will result in the most beneficial personal and social consequences.
Sexual abstinence for unmarried youth requires support from several different sources, parents, teachers, peers and members of society. To successfully abstain, young people must:
1) learn the facts of reproduction and the possible consequences of sexual activity;
2) understand the importance of abstaining;
3) embrace the value (importance in their lives) of delaying sexual involvement;
4) recognize the need for refusing;
5) practice the skills to attract and keep friends of high character and
6) sustain high standards.
Adults and the media send many different messages regarding sex and abstinence. Some movies and television programs convey the idea that everyone is having sex. The truth is that most young people want the best for their lives and don’t want to jeopardize their health.
Maturing in Body and Character for upper elementary or middle school students uses many of the effective approaches utilized in other Teen-Aid, Inc. materials. The writing of this curriculum is in response to requests by those who prize character and have experienced the effectiveness of other Teen-Aid, Inc. products.
Part I of Maturing in Body and Character lays the foundation of good character which enables young people to act with the character necessary to achieve each of these (A-H of the Personal Responsibility Act) pieces of the definition of abstinence education as legislated by Congress.