20 years ago we had this great idea that we should start a family. Being 20, and completely stupid I thought "hell yah"! This should be cake right? Off to the store to buy cute little baby things, it's going to be so fun!!! Then the baby is born and reality sets in. If you're like me, then comes the one after that.. then the next one, then the one after the last "last" one... et al.. but I digress.
When you are first handed your little fat smooshy ball of baby, you have dreams of grandeur. You are going to be the BEST mom/dad ever. Your kid is going to be smart, and funny, and popular, and a athlete, and probably know 11 languages, and that's all before they even start kindergarten... and then once more reality sets in.
We all want the best for our kids. While I have no issues at all with your (or my) child being any of the above mentioned fabulous things... what is really the most important thing that we can instill in our kids? If you ask me it's not being a dick! No one likes a douche canoe at work, or on the road.. and no one likes a pint sized one either.
I think honestly far too often we put so much stock and attention on the report card, the trophy, the amazing award.. that we lose sight of the fact that we are raising kids who are mean little asses.
Yes yes I know I may slightly be coming from a skewed place, as I was the sad, awkward, bullied, braces clad weird little girl who could count her friends on two fingers in jr.high. That being said, and my own experiences aside, were any of us ever taught to NOT be dicks? Two summers ago I was at my 20 year class reunion and I was giving a little bit of a hard time to someone who may not have been horribly kind to me as a kid, (but is now a really good friend.. life.. go figure) and he said something that stuck with me... "Well you weren't nice to me either".... HOLY. SHIT. I wasn't. It really goes both ways. You can't expect kindness, but never give any.
Now as a parent, having a child experiencing bullying, kids who are asses, and your general awkward middle school years. I am forced to take great pause, when the aforementioned bullied child pulls the same exact shit that makes this child so sad, on their own siblings.
So I have come up with a few things, that I do, that I truly think if we all did/ paid attention to.. maybe we would be raising far fewer dicks.
TALK TO YOUR CHILD - I know what you're thinking, DUH, and then possibly NAHHH. I know this is probably the first line in every child raising book ever written in the history of forever, but bear with me here. I don't just mean.. "Hey how, was school?", " Got any homework?" , "Who wants a cookie?"... How about.. " Anything shitty happen today?", "I've noticed you don't walk out with XXX any more? Ya'll still cool?" Maybe they'll answer, maybe they won't but they will know that you really do care, and when someone cares about you, you are more likely to care about others.
YOU CAN'T TEACH EMPATHY - You can't. You can not teach your child to feel bad when they hurt someones feelings, and making them apologize when they hurt someone doesn't teach empathy. Empathy can't be taught but it can be learned, learned by the example of people who truly care about their fellow human beings. Lead by example! When you fail and are a total ass, apologize to you're child. It's good to know that no one is perfect. Show them that you value their feelings and validate those feeling and that you care when you hurt them. I fail on a pretty regular basis, I own it, I apologize and I try not to do it again. We need to show are kids that we're not perfect, we lose our cool, but our goal is to NOT, and that should be their goal too.
DON'T PUT TO MUCH STOCK IN EXTRACURRICULARS - As I touched on this earlier.. I have NOTHING no things against smart, athletic, talented kids. I do however have something against kids (and adults) who think that since they excel in one area it excuses their pompous, rude, nasty behavior. You're talents will only get you so far, if you suck as a human, you aren't going to get very far in life.
DISCUSS BULLYING - It's the buzz word, hot topic, lets get rid of it, crusade, as of late.. but have you talked to your kids? Like really talked to them. You might be surprised what you learn. It might break your heart. Every news story of another bullied 12-17 year old taking their own life because they felt helpless, tears me apart, because I remember being that kid.
Opening this talk , in a truthful manner, is hard, but needed.
"Do you treat people kindly?" "Really really?" "What's the nicest/meanest thing you did at school this week?", and "Are you happy?" You might hear "yah we were mean to her, but she kinda deserves it.". OUCH or your sweet, kind, never complains child, might tear up and say "I usually eat my lunch standing up as I leave the line, and then go hide in the bathroom until lunch is over, so xxxx and xxxx can't find me." or the even more heartbreaking " You have no idea how bad it is to be me." (all of which have come out of the mouths of my own children.) YOU AS A PARENT NEED TO KNOW, you need to ask, and if your child does not fall on either the side of the bully, or the bullied, they need to know it's ok to stand up for their friend. It's ok to stand up for someone they never met, IT'S NOT ONLY OK, IT IS NECESSARY!! They need to know that a kind word or gesture can LITERALLY save a life.
PRACTICE NICENESS - It's true your kids are watching, and listening. Not always when you say things like "clean your room", or "take a shower." however in all honesty THEY ARE LISTENING AND THEY ARE WATCHING. If you are road raging, complaining about co-works, airing others dirty laundry.. your kids hear that, and they think it's ok. I'm guilty of this, I'm guilty of saying things I shouldn't, but it's never to late to change. Mow your neighbors lawn, offer to bring lunch to that really annoying co-worker because you know he just had surgery. Your kids will see it, and they will know THAT is what the normal should be.
Let's make 2015 the year that we are all a little bit nicer. Reach out to one another, check on friends, acquaintances, family members.
Let's all stop being dicks :)