In our family, when the children are called to a “family meeting,” it’s code for a need to address some issue. More often than not, it’s about how we are treating each other. We honestly discuss the problem, allowing each child to offer how he or she is feeling and his or her side of things, and then we discuss appropriate consequences and better solutions.
Listen, mamas. If I could gather you all up into my living room for a family meeting, then I would. Because we have a problem. We have a huge, ongoing problem, and it needs to be addressed.
We Can Do Better
The truth is that we can do better. We can do so much better in how we are treating each other and how we are teaching our children to treat others. I don’t know if it’s the result of the frenzied and stressed-out state of our culture, or a lack of civility born from the advent of social media, but our consumerism mentality is trickling into our relationships.
What I see is that we are lacking common courtesy. We are lacking kindness and generosity of spirit. We seem to be more interested in raising high achieving intellects and superstar athletes than we are in raising a generation with great character.
We seem to be more interested in using relationships when it’s convenient and self-serving than we are in being parents who model how to sacrifice self for the greater good. We are more interested in being right and staying popular than in fostering relationships marked by loyalty and mutual respect.
The truth is that our children are watching how we do community. Our children hear when we gossip about others or snap off criticisms. They see when we refuse to own up to hurting someone, and they see when we choose our own agenda over service to others. We must not only be the people we want our children to become, but we must also navigate them through even the uncomfortable and harder aspects of relationships. We must stop making excuses for them when they behave badly toward someone.
I don’t understand parents who say that it’s just how it is.
No. It’s how it is because you won’t do the heavy lifting of holding yourself and your children to be accountable and committed to other people. We’ve forgotten how to be neighborly and welcoming and embracing of others. We applaud all the feel-good stories that go viral, and we love when celebrities show generosity to others. But, we don’t take the tiny steps not only to follow in that direction, but also to lead our children to such kindness.
We’ve become bystanders with cell phones when something goes wrong, rather than rolling up our sleeves and getting dirty to stand with a friend through the messier parts of life.
I believe in us. I believe we do actually have the ability and the strength of character to do better. We don’t have to wait until some tragic hurricane floods our streets to show our humanity. I believe we really can do that every day.
We can teach our children to look for the person on the fringe and invite him or her to sit together at lunch. We can actually do this ourselves. We can engage in debates with different perspectives while showing the utmost respect for the other person. We can avoid name calling and express dissent without ripping apart the character of another person. We can be loving toward people, whether we agree with them on everything or not.
We can force our children to choose kindness and to offer apologies and to extend forgiveness. We can put an absolute stop to all gossip, both from our own mouths and from theirs. We can applaud and encourage acts of kindness and give it the same priority as a grade on a paper.
People will always remember how you made them feel. But in 10 years, they probably won’t remember your class rank or your winning point.
We can teach our children to care deeply about how we make others feel. We do this by doing so ourselves, and then navigating them through awkward situations to build long-lasting relationships, rather than just throwing them away when things get hard.
I know we can do better at showing up in the hard times, cheering each other on through the good times, and caring enough about relationship and character to work through the rough times.
We aren’t always going to get it right. We are going to fail each other. But we can always come out on the other side of conflict or problems and still have a respect and regard for one another.
For all the talk about anti-bullying, I feel we have become a culture rather gifted at subtle bullying.
But we can do better. All of us can do better. We can pay attention to the hearts of other people and teach our children to handle each other with care. This doesn’t mean we have to best friends with everyone or doormats for others.
It just means we hold ourselves — and our children — to a higher standard.
Because we can do better at building healthier community.