Saturday, August 20, 2005

How wisdom becomes lost to younger generations

A proverb is a short sentence based on long experience.
- Miguel de Cervantes, novelist (1547-1616)

Cervantes (Spanish writer best known in the English speaking world for 'Don Quijote') provides an excellent definition for the word proverb. However, a few more words might be helpful.

Parents and older family members tend to pass along proverbs to younger generations as words of wisdom. Younger generations tend to accept them not necessarily as words of wisdom but instead as part of their culture.

We adults should encourage children to question us about these proverbs. We should be able to prove their value to our children, especially so if we can give examples from our own lives.

Proverbs gain status as words of wisdom worth adopting as personal life guidelines only when children hear something meaningful, such as examples from a parent's life, to which to attach the sayings in their minds.

Without the personal attachments, proverbs are just cute sayings that only gain meaning later in life when, as adults long past childhood, we see the truth and importance of them through the mistakes we have made in our own lives.

Wisdom has meaning to younger generations only when they have some way of identifying it as important to them, such as through the experiences of their parents.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' tying real-life experiences to words of wisdom so that children do not need to make the same tragic mistakes as their parents.
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