As a father and grandfather, I've come to believe there are fading moral and ethical principles we are wise to salvage for our young if they are to enjoy fulfilling adult lives.
Among such traits is the most important: Teaching respect for others, certainly including the older ones whose experiences can provide invaluable advice and direction. Respect is the cornerstone for every significant relationship. Lacking a reverence for respect, no relationship can hold together for long.
Practicing what we preach is another important building block in youthful lives. Children naturally learn from watching adults around them. In other words, we should model the traits and behaviors we want to see in our kids. Talk is cheap. Our positive actions are what stick in impressionable minds and make a difference in how they develop.
This should include narrating personal experiences since all kids enjoy hearing and remembering stories, especially those teaching moral values.
Good behavior should always be rewarded. Systems where a child is rewarded for demonstrating proper reactions and behaviors with praise and rewards are the types of reinforcement that can significantly help shape the growth of children as they emerge into adulthood.
It's important for parents to regularly communicate with their children about why morals, individual responsibility and ethics matter to them and others. As in all relationships, practicing communication every day is fundamental.
Finally, wise parents in 2021 will monitor their child's time and use of television and the Internet, according to their age. With the abundance of violence, immorality and self-centered material publicly available nowadays, efforts to generate positive traits in a child can be easily erased.
Received this email from subscriber David Kelley the other day. "Dear Mike, I saw a letter in today's paper that bothered me. The writer suggested the paper let you go because you expressed an opinion the writer did not like. How dare you do such a thing! Thou Shalt Not Express An Opinion That Others Do Not Like. Keep writing."
David, thanks for your supportive words. It appears the letter-writer you refer to isn't alone, as the paper of late has selected for publication a few similarly negative sentiments.
You've likely noticed that being regularly singled out for personal public criticism (especially when discussing political events in this climate) requires an elephant's hide.
Rest assured, I'll continue to write for and about the people of Arkansas for as long as I'm able. After all, this is my home.
There are other contrasting views. Readers Steve Allinson and Helen Porter also emailed positive messages last week, indicating that at least three readers are capable of appreciating what flows from my pea-sized brain:
Allinson: "Hi, Mike, excellent article today! America is struggling with our post-election hangovers. Maybe the answer is for the independents to withdraw from politics for at a year. It has helped me to unplug from politics. It looks like [some] have written in on the [Voices] page, demanding that you be fired, in at least the past five days. I truly hope that you have a thick skin."
Then, lo and behold, Helen Porter made me blush when she emailed the following day: "Hi, Mike. I have written before praising you for what you contribute to our state and beyond for your wise, thoughtful words in the paper.
"Yesterday your thoughts on what's happened to our United States [were] something I hadn't thought about. When you said politics, I realized that's the main culprit. I think the isolation that all of us have suffered contributes to the anger.
"I know that's true for me as I've become a 'cross patch.' Don't know if you ever knew that nursery rhyme about cross patch. It's a good one to think about.
[That rhyme from Mother Goose circa 1920 goes: "Cross Patch, Draw the latch, Sit by the fire and spin; Take a cup, And drink it up. And call your neighbors in."]
"Anyway I am grateful to you," she wrote. "I still think you were the most helpful in getting Miss Willie Mae released. Being a bit involved with the women prisoners has taught me so much about the justice system. Yesterday's article was interesting about the incarcerated man. Is he mentally ill?
"Your article about funding campaigns was so right on. Walter has told me how to copy but I'm not smart enough to get it right. I wanted to be sure Tom Cotton had seen it. I was writing him about my not contributing to the campaign in Florida. You said exactly what I believe about all that stupid funding. Of course you say things in a much better thought-out way ... reasons, beliefs, not 'stupid funding.'"
"This chatter began by saying thank you. Grateful for you as a person on the planet as well as an excellent journalist. One more plus for Arkansas! Blessings."
Blessings and appreciations to you as well, Helen. Thanks for taking your valuable time to write such a kind personal message.
It's reassuring to see there may be at least be as many satisfied readers out there as those who become surprisingly hostile over differing opinions. My response to all: Thanks for reading.
Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at