Nalini Joseph: Children should experience sacrifice to be great

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 11, 2020

By Nalini Joseph

As parents, we often think of mental stress that our children face as something to be avoided. Mental anguish is synonymous with punishment. The word “punishment” conjures up images of torture and needless suffering.  

Since the 1980’s, our culture has essentially banned the word — punishment — from our parenting lexicon. We have been taught by modern child psychologists and child-rearing experts to steer clear from using “punishment” to teach our children. For most parents, this newer form of parenting, which floats in a pretty bubble of positive rewards, encouragement and support, sounds and feels really good. After all, if you’re like me, you cringe at the thought of your child suffering from mental or emotional stress. We are programmed to comfort, nurture and make this world a good and wonderful place for our children to live in. It’s in our DNA to ease our child’s pain and worries.  

Nalini Joseph

However, on the path to greatness, each child will have many encounters with mental anguish, which will feel like or is punishment. A child who is learning to become a great will learn difficult lessons at a tender age. For example, in order to be a leader, a child has to sometimes disassociate him or herself from others who are not on the same path. There are times that a great child will feel isolated because of the activities that he or she chooses to engage in, which are different from the activities that are enjoyed by many other children who happen to be on a path that leads to mediocrity. 

I am reminded of a quote made by George Washington: “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.” Great individuals usually have a small inner circle; think about Jesus (although even within his close group of disciples, he experienced betrayal.)  Many greats have had to sacrifice worldly pleasures in order to embody greatness. Many greats in our world suffered loss, poverty, disability, disease or loneliness when they were children.  

So what is the best way to teach our children how to handle life’s ordeals, which will become exponentially greater as they become older? Surely we don’t want our children to get to high school or college before we teach them that failure and pain is part of living, learning and being human? Part of the answer lies in teaching our children to be resilient, to cope with mental and emotional pain by introducing it to them in small spurts early on in their young lives.    

One way to teach a child how to handle emotional pain is to teach them how to sacrifice — physical and mental sacrifice lead to great character. Teach your child to sacrifice their playtime for study time. Teach them to trade their desire for a certain name brand clothing for no-name brand clothing. Teach children that it’s good to sacrifice for others; their siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and people they don’t know and will never know who live in another continent.

They will learn that these sacrifices create a good and clean heart. Ask your child to give up something that is precious to them so that a less fortunate child may experience the joy of having that one thing. Be a role model by sacrificing, too.

I commend families that spend their Thanksgiving Day each year at the soup kitchen, feeding those who would otherwise be hungry. Sacrifice on a consistent basis. Give your child these mental exercises that call for sacrifice daily. You, as a parent, sacrifice so much for your child; allow your child to feel the gratification that accompanies sacrifice.       

Nalini Joseph is a resident of Salisbury. She is the proud mother of 10-year honor-roll student, Rohan Joseph, who also serves his community as president of COVID Busters. Email her at