Classic literature, such as King Arthur and His Knights of the Roundtable (Howard Pyle) and Little Women and Little Men (Louisa May Alcott), clearly defines the characteristics of a true knight and dame. These classic works elicit in its reader a desire to reach for the lofty manner of living manifest in these admirable characters.
The Knights of Pyle’s design are steadfast, faithful, obedient, self-controlled, chivalrous, humble, virtuous, they have a strong moral character and they aspire to make the world a better place, just for having been in it.
According to Pyle, “Whilst they [knights] would perform signal service for mankind, yet they were not pleased to receive thanks or reward for the same, but took the utmost satisfaction, not in what they gained by their acts, but in doing of knightly deeds, for they found all their reward in their deeds, because of that thereby they made the world in which they lived better.” Pyle
The dames, or women, of Alcott’s design are “One of those happily created beings who please without effort, make friends everywhere, and take life so gracefully and easily that less fortunate souls are tempted to believe that such are born under a lucky star.” Alcott 2
As a parent, these classic works prompted me to conjecture the formation required to foster these characteristics (knightly and fair) in my own children.
Here are the top 10 Characteristics of a true Knight and Dame and by what means we can foster them in our children:
Teach your children to know, love and serve God. Teach them to pray. Pray with them and let them see you praying. Pray for them daily; pray for faith, hope, love, purity, virtue, and strong moral character. This is their spiritual armor.
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” (Eph 6:11 NASB).
“He who believes is strong; he who doubts is weak. Strong convictions precede great actions.” Alcott 1
Read the bible to your children. It is nice to start the day with the Gospels at the breakfast table, otherwise before bedtime. Ask the children to truly listen to what God is saying to them when you read aloud. You will be surprised to hear that God speaks differently to each of us, based on where we are in our faith journey. The bible is a living book through which the Holy Spirit breathes upon us the wisdom to guide us.
Participate in bible studies and then encourage your children, as they get older to do the same. Daily life is laden in trials; there is no trial we will undergo more challenging than that which Jesus accomplished for us in His Passion. The pages of scripture are laden in wisdom, consolation, and love. In its pages are the answers to all of life’s questions.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16 NASB)
“You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 11:18 – 19 NASB)
“For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother.” (Matthew 15:4 NASB).
Communicate AND enforce a standard of behavior in your home. Children are called by God to obey their father and mother; this is their vocation. Their obedience to their vocation is a powerful form of prayer and a great glory to God. When they obey your rules and standards, they ultimately obey and glorify God.
As Jesus told St. Faustina “My daughter, know that you give Me greater glory by a single act of obedience than by long prayers and mortifications.”
Similarly, as parents, performing the duties of our vocation is the means by which we glorify God. Parent and child alike, when we obey God, through our vocation, we glorify God.
God will most assuredly provide grace sufficient for parents to lead, with great success. “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 NASB)
Obedience begets peace and peace begets joy. As F.B. Meyer says, “Joy is peace dancing and joy is peace at rest.”
4. Virtuous with Strong Character
Encourage virtue and strong moral character and set your standards high. Children will reach as high as we set the bar.
A great way to set the standard in your home is by reading the lives of saints to your children. A great confessor once told me, “Don’t lower your standards, just your expectations, one day they will just start doing all the things you have been encouraging.”
Additionally, read the classics with your children. Virtue and character can be learned through many channels. The classics are classic for a reason, they are laden in wisdom. Each of these treasures edifies its reader in some lesson that will leave an indelible mark on their heart; be it coming of age, conversion of heart, faith, overcoming faults, courage, purity, friendship, love, tragedy or perseverance. These books are steeped in wisdom and will aid in the formation of virtuous children with strong moral character.
For every time you reprove your child’s displeasing behavior, try to compliment and encourage their demonstration of good behavior.
If possible, work with your children individually on the fault with which they struggle most, and they will invariably grow in the virtue diametrically opposed to this fault. This leads us to temperance, or self control, #5.
Demonstrate and teach self mastery.
In the classics, Little Women and Little Men, author Louisa May Alcott writes of teaching children to overcome their faults and temptations:
“My child, the troubles and temptations of your life are beginning, and may be many; but you can overcome and outlive them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly Father as you do that of your earthly one. The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will depend on human power and wisdom. His love and care never tire or change, can never be taken from you, but may become the source of lifelong peace, happiness, and strength. Believe this heartily, and go to God with all your little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrows, as freely and confidingly as you come to your mother… Watch and pray, dear, never get tired of trying, and never think it is impossible to conquer your fault.” Alcott 2
“A little kingdom I possess, where thoughts and feelings dwell; And very hard the task I find of governing it well.” Alcott 1
Pray think speak. Pray think do. If you can learn to control your temper and temptations, you are teaching your children the same. They are going to parrot your behavior anyway; it is best they parrot good behavior.
6. Chivalrous (Knight)
Let your husband be your knight. Let him open the door for you, help pry that jar open and do the heavy lifting. Women are the heart of the home, men are the head. Men are called by God to lead; with your love, support, encouragement, and with God’s grace they will rise to the occasion.
Alcott writes in Little Women, “Gentlemen, be courteous to the old maids, no matter how poor and plain and prim, for the only chivalry worth having is that which is the readiest to pay deference to the old, protect the feeble, and serve womankind, regardless of rank, age, or color.” Alcott 2
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her. “ (Eph 5:25 NASB)
When your boys observe their father’s knightly conduct, they too will rise to the occasion. Your girls will look for this quality in a future spouse, if that is the vocation to which God calls them.
7. Fair (Dame)
Be a fair maid. Dress and behave with modesty, gentleness and femininity.
Alcott, in Little Women writes, “You laugh at me when I say I want to be a lady, but I mean a true gentlewoman in mind and manners, and I try to do it as far as I know how. I can't explain exactly, but I want to be above the little meannesses and follies and faults that spoil so many women." 2
May your husbands, “even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” (1 Peter 3:1-2 NASB)
God made you a woman, and He made you in His image and likeness. He is truth, goodness and beauty, wrapped up in love. Be a lady and be beautiful! Your daughters will follow your lead.
Teach and demonstrate humility - When you make a mistake or fall in virtue in front of your children, ask forgiveness and let them know that you are human too. We are all human; we all fall short at some point.
By demonstrating your humility and need for God’s grace, through forgiveness, you show true humility and in the process form a contrite and humble heart in your children.
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12 NASB)
A great prayer to teach your children is, "Lord, let them see You, not me, and may You shine!"
A great prayer to teach your children is, "Lord, let them see You, not me, and may You shine!"
We teach love by giving love. Love begets love and as Mother Teresa says, “Give until it hurts!”
What is love? Love is patient and kind. Love is humble and grateful. Love honors others and is generous. Love is temperate and forgiving. Love avoids evil and rejoices in truth, goodness and beauty. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. (1 Cor: 13 NASB)
Love is a flower that grows in any soil, works its sweet miracles undaunted by autumn frost or winter snow, blooming fair and fragrant all the year, and blessing those who give and those who receive.” Alcott, Little Men 2
We can encourage our children to make little acts of love all day long. An act of love can be as simple as praying for a sibling, obeying mom and dad right away, or helping clean a spill at the dinner table. These acts of love are beautiful and as Mother Teresa says, “Do something beautiful for God.”
10. They make the world a better place
Leave a heavenly fragrance wherever you endeavor to go and encourage your children to do the same. As Mother Teresa said, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”
Leave every encounter better for you having been a part of it.The immortal words of Howard Pyle serve as a great inspiration and conclusion to this synopsis on inspiring our children to reach for the lofty but worthy traits of these knights and dames.
“And I do hope that you may have found pleasure in considering their lives and their works as I have done. For as I wrote of their behavior and pondered upon it, meseemed they offered a very high example that anyone might follow to his betterment who lives in this world where so much that is ill needs to be amended.” Pyle
1. Brainy Quote.com - http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/l/louisa_may_alcott.html2. Good Reads.com - http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1315.Louisa_May_Alcott