Between the state of our country and the fact that it’s so much easier to say things behind a keyboard, you don’t have to look far to find name-calling and adults saying terrible things to one another.
My kids are 3 and 6, and it’s awesome to watch the world through their eyes. At the playground, my 3-year-old befriends everyone she sees. My six-year-old is the best big brother and is so caring for others. He will even ask me about my day in the evenings. We try to teach our kids in age-appropriate ways the importance of kindness, tolerance, and respect. But, I’ve had two instances in the last couple of weeks that have opened my eyes to the fact that it’s going to be an uphill battle. We can talk about and model kindness, but how do we know if we’re doing enough?
First, earlier this week, my son brought home his first “think sheet.” It’s something his teacher uses to help kids think through when they did something wrong. He and a couple of other kids wrote something unkind on a note and gave it to another student. It wasn’t what I’d call a “bad word,” and honestly, it’s a word we’d use at home when joking around. But it hurt the other child’s feelings.
Secondly, we got an email from our school district sharing guidance from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and asked that we implement the following at home as we navigate this time:
Model and teach desired behaviors.
Reassure children that they are and will be okay.
Help children manage strong emotions.
Reinforce acceptance and appreciation for diversity as critical American values.
Stop any type of harassment or bullying immediately.
Help children see other perspectives and value respectful dialogue.
Discuss the importance of respecting our democratic process.
Encourage children to channel their views and feelings into positive action.
I love his teacher’s approach to the unkind note, and it’s something we talked about at length that evening. The list shared by the school is great, and I have no issues with our superintendent sharing it. But it definitely stopped me in my tracks as I was reading the email with political attack ads on in the background. So here we are, whereas parents, we’re expecting our children to behave better than adults.
However, it’s our responsibility as parents. And I’m going to step up my game. Here are a few of the ways we’re managing in our house:
- Ignoring. I can’t handle some of the things I’m hearing/reading, and I’m an adult. So we’ll change the channel or whatever we have to do for our mental health. There’s also a lot out there that is not appropriate for young children, so we’ll ignore some of it right now. We won’t ignore the issues, but we’ll ignore some of the talk that surrounds it.
- Discussing. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m doing my best to answer questions and talk about events as they arise. We’ll keep it simple and at their level. Also, one of my favorite ways to address hard questions is to say, “what do you think?” Sometimes kids are better at coming up with answers than we are.
- Going high. As Michelle Obama said, “Going high” doesn’t mean you don’t feel the hurt, or you’re not entitled to an emotion. It means that your response has to reflect the solution. It shouldn’t come from a place of anger or vengefulness. Anger may feel good in the moment, but it’s not going to move the ball forward. In the last few months, I’ve volunteered more and found doing good helps take away some of the anger I’ve also felt. I’m sharing those experiences with my kids.
- Rethinking. We are rethinking what types of things we may say “in good fun” that just aren’t all that nice or necessary. I certainly don’t always do the right thing. So we’re rethinking some of our words and behaviors, knowing that our children are watching.
No matter what happens in the coming weeks, months, and years, I will do my part to instill the values that I hope to see in the future generation of leaders. We can do this!