Children Learn to Love What We Teach Them to Love

Brenda Porter

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

Last weekend, I went to see Little Women with two of my three daughters. It is a family favorite, so we were hesitant to see a new version, worried that another re-telling might not do justice to characters who feel like cherished friends. But we loved it! The New England countryside is beautifully filmed, the four March sisters are radiant, affectionate, dutiful, and honest, and the screenplay offers a fresh perspective while remaining faithful to the novel. We even loved the determined and spoiled Amy March in a new way.

My love for Amy and for all the Little Women came from my mother, as did my love for reading.

Children learn to love what we teach them to love.

This principle is what Augustine calls ordo amoris, defined by C. S. Lewis as “the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind and degree of love which is appropriate to it.” With so much competing for their attention, it is imperative that children learn to rightly order their affections, to love things that are true, beautiful, and good.

In our Morning Star classrooms, showing students what to love is one of our main purposes. Recently, the seventh graders began to read The Pilgrim’s Progress. This classic of Christian storytelling will challenge them as readers, but they will have the opportunity to learn about accepting encouragement from trusted friends, about facing challenges faithfully, and about pressing on when despair presses down. Our freshman will continue to press in to Aristotle’s Rhetoric, and they’ll take away from it an understanding of virtue and of the good things that lead to happiness.  

The challenge for all of us, teachers and parents alike, is to remember to look for those good things. As we struggle through the mundane trials of everyday life, and even as we see injustice, ugliness, and pain in our world, we must still give focused attention to finding the beautiful, the good, and the true. “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair….” We must look for what is fair—a good movie, a loving friend, a kind deed, a sunset, a mountain, a painting.

Most importantly, as we share these loves with our students and children, we’re also sharing what they reveal, the presence of our loving and gracious heavenly Father, author of all that is beautiful, true, and good.

Brenda Porter teaches English, writing, and rhetoric at Morning Star Academy. She and her husband, Rob, are the parents of three grown daughters. 

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