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A Parenting Lesson From Atticus Finch

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A Parenting Lesson From Atticus Finch
There are many different parenting styles, but which one is the best? To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a story of a girl’s journey growing up during the prejudicial times before World War II. Her father, Atticus Finch, is a praiseworthy father because he lets his children learn from their experiences and he teaches them to be courageous and responsible. He lets Scout and Jem learn and experience themselves the values he teaches them, such as courage and responsibility.

Atticus wants his children to be brave and courageous. In his youth, Atticus was known as “one-shot Finch”. He never told his children about this because “[he] wanted [them] to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand”(112). Essentially, Atticus wanted Jem to realize that although he was once admired for his shooting abilities, a gun is like a mask. He wants Jem to learn and fabricate his own idea of courage. Earlier in the story, Atticus tells Scout the story of a court case he took defending Tom Robinson, and why he took it. He says, “…if I didn’t, I couldn’t hold my head up in town, I couldn’t represent this country in legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again”(75). Atticus teaches Scout that even though he might be putting his children in danger he has to take the case to preserve his self-worth. He shows courage to his children because even though he is putting the people he loves in danger, he feel he has to do the case because or else he wouldn’t be confident in himself or his job.

In addition, Atticus teaches Jem and Scout to be responsible for their actions. When Jem cuts Mrs. Dubose’s camellia buds, Atticus makes Jem take responsibility for his actions by apologizing to her. When he comes back, Jem states that Mrs. Dubose wants him to read to her. “‘…She wants me to come every afternoon after school and Saturdays and read to her out loud for two hours. Atticus, do I have to? …She wants me to do it for a month.’ ‘Then you’ll do it for a month’ [Atticus replied]”(105). Atticus wants Jem to take responsibility for destroying Mrs. Dubose’s plants. Since Jem mistreated Mrs. Dubose, he has to make a right by taking responsibility and taking time
out of his day to pay for what he did. Earlier in the story, Atticus teaches Jem physical responsibility as well. “Jem pulled out his grandfather’s watch that Atticus let him carry once a week if Jem were careful with it”(61). Even early in the novel, Lee foreshadows a theme of responsibility throughout the book. Atticus trusts Jem with the pocket watch to see if he is responsible enough to handle tougher challenges that he will have to face later in the story.

However, Atticus teaches his children upstanding values in ways that differ from other parents. Atticus can’t teach his children everything they need to know, so he takes things that happen in their lives and illustrates to Scout and Jem the lessons they should learn from them. This is shown when Scout is being bullied at school for her father’s job. “‘…Why did Cecil say you defended n****rs? …’[Scout asks/] ’I’m simply defending a Negro… Scout, you aren’t old enough to understand some things yet, but there’s some high talk around town to the effect that I shouldn’t do much about defending thins man’”(75). Atticus teaches Scout to disregard others’ options of her and her family. By letting her get teased first and telling her the lesson later, he lets her experience for herself the lesson and then explains it to her. Another way he teaches his children is through the examples of others. He surrounds his children with people he knows can teach them other virtues. He asks his sister, Aunt Alexandra, to come and look after Scout, even though she doesn’t like her. “‘Have you come for a visit, Aunty?’ I asked… ‘Didn’t your father tell you?… We decided that it would be best for you to have some feminine influence’”(127). Even though Atticus knows Scout does not like Aunt Alexandra, he still asks her to come so she can help Scout learn to be lady-like, even though Scout refuses. He brings people in to teach Scout and Jem values he cannot teach himself.

Atticus teaches his children in a unique way rather than keeping them in a bubble. He shows his children responsibility and courage while letting them learn for themselves as well. In this way, Atticus prepares his children for their future, when they may not always have him around for support. The lessons he teaches them are valuable, and he supports them to grow up to become responsible and courageous adults. Although his teaching methods are
distinct to norms of his time, parents today can look to his methods for guidance to raise their own children, they can teach their children by example, and by illustrating to them the lessons they can and should learn from their experiences.

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