Thursday, April 14, 2011

Citizenship, Happy, Good Little Chillins & Raising a little Democrat in a bucket full Repulicans

"Teaching Children to Do Good"
 (and perhaps get a lil Democrat out of the process)
We all believe in compassion and working together for the greater good, helping our fellow man, right? We all believe that being kind, caring citizens is front center in the day for everyone, right?Sometimes, I worry . . . . . maybe,  just maybe , we're not all on the same page?

Lions and Tigers and Donkeys (OH MY).
My head is spinning, and it doesn't seem to want to stop.  There is no way I analyzed things and thought this hard or this much when the Lil Momma came up in the ranks.  I didn't have the time then that I have now, but whatever the reason~all I know is "Bitsy's thinking".   In this newfound role of mine, I find myself thinking alot about just what the legitimate role we hold as parents truly is, and in Bitsy's case,  what's my role as a "grand" parent?  While parenting and grandparenting are two distinctly different things, I think everybody has to "buy into" being on the same page.

At one time, I would have said, that raising a "happy" child was first and foremost our responsibility.  We all want our children to be happy, right?  BUT, the more I have thought about it, when the Lil Momma was coming up, her Dad and I felt it was also pretty important to instill a sense of self confidence and self esteem in her, maybe even self confidence with a big helping of happy too!   Once she got a little older and we were well into the child raising gig, we discovered, that while it was important for her to be happy, it was looking like it may be just as important to be "good" and to be "kind".  Yeh, I know, pretty idealistic huh?  All this could be overwhelming.  It was our responsibility to somehow give the Lil Momma the tools and skills needed to become a "good person".  If we didn't do it, who would
Sometimes, when we look up, it's almost as if our entire culture has become "intoxicated" with being "special".  Sure, we're all "special"~who doesn't want to be or feel that their child defines the word.  Isn't it just as important to be "tolerant", "patient", "kind" and ultimately for us to TRY to instill the qualities that will make a child a good citizen and an admirable fellow man?  Sure, it's important for our children to be "happy", but is it our number one goal in life?  As parents, is our children's happiness more important than "being a good person who cares about others"?  Couldn't we accomplish that "special" by teaching them to be "good"?  Can't we work on being "good" and just maybe ultimately because of that goodness . . . . . .achieve "happy"?
I have a habit of watching Fox News for awhile (yeh, I know), and then switching it to CNN for awhile.  I figure I have a better chance of staying "well rounded" that way, well that and the Blue Bell :).  As I watched today, I found myself again wondering how these people we call leaders got to a point where they felt so "special", where they were held in such high "esteem".  Do you think they're "happy"?  I know one thing, I think most of them are probably "good" but have forgotten how to show it for fear of being labelled.  As I listened to our leaders battling it out over our budget, it seems that each person was concentrating on proving just how "smart", how "special" and "together" they were, rather than concentrating on exactly what long term effects their actions will have on the greater good.  Seemed to me that they were focussed on "getting their way" and making "themselves" happy.  I didn't see any "kindness" or feel any "compassion" in anything that was said, and that made me sad.  Yep, I have gotten into trouble in my life believing that I could make a difference, believing in the idealism of trying to be a good person. I am, for the most part, a Democrat (yes, I said the D word)!  I've voted for a Reagan, 2 Bush's, a Clinton, and yes, an Obama and just may do it again, but who knows-we'll see come November, 2012.  What I do know is I'm proud of the men I voted for. I believe those of us who can take care of ourselves have some type of responsibility to help those less fortunate, whether they be young or old.  For those of you who say, "We don't owe these people anything."  You're right, they aren't "owed" anything, but the "good" in me dictates that it is "in my opinion" the compassionate, kind, right thing to do.  I tire of all the Repulican/Democrat/Tea Party foolishness.  Let's just remember we live in a Nation that we love and because we love it~as good citizens, we will work it out somehow.  Are we gonna be in debt forever?  Yeah, probably, but we didn't wake up this way two and a half years ago now did we?  We all need to get a grip here.   Be GOOD PEOPLE.  BE KIND PEOPLE.  I have a feeling the rest will take care of itself.

It's bothers me that I sometimes see parents prioritizing happiness for their kiddos over goodness. I'm not calling anyone a "Happiness Heathen", but if the shoe fits, wear it!  I believe that most people believe they believe and care about goodness. In fact, I would bet that most parents believe self-esteem will lead to caring more about others.  This is not a novel idea.  I just think it may be a misguided one.  I remember reading articles in parenting magazines, etc. which pushed the idea to parents that children who felt good about themselves would be good.  It reminded me when I worked as a flight attendant, giving instructions on using the air masks.  I'd clearly advise the passengers to: Fill themselves up first, and then help their neighbor.

Think about how radical a change this is. Adults in  generations before us didn’t think that morality came as a result of self-esteem or happiness. They believed the idea, rooted in the Bible, that morality oftentimes came from suffering. Moral character came from making sacrifices, fulfilling difficult obligations, empathizing with the pain and burdens of others, and surviving hard times.
The kicker is that all this focus on children’s happiness and self-esteem doesn't seem to be making children happier. The amazing lengths we, as parents go to to protect them from adversity — making sure they are always on winning teams, hovering in to resolve minor conflicts, indulging trivial complaints — often rob our kids of the coping skills that are key to their long-term well-being. When we prioritize our children’s moment-to-moment happiness over their attention to others, we kind of rob them of the skills they need to be good friends, good life partners, colleagues, parents, and grandparents. These relationships are commonly the strongest and most durable sources of happiness. Instead, children often become preoccupied with their own feelings and less able to tune in to or organize themselves around others.

There are all kinds of subtle ways we can prioritize happiness over attention to others. Too many of us, don’t push our children to fulfill obligations that might upset, unravel or distress them. Just the other day, I was talking about the Lil Momma quitting dancing years ago, well yep, we did let her do that.  Public humiliation doesn't fall into my definition of character building, but when it came to T-ball, and when the gnats were like Jaws, the hair began to frizz and there was a question about whether she would show up or stay home, we talked about it.  We told her she had to finish the Season, and thankfully, she went back for many a gnat biting Season.  Should we have let her quit because she wasn’t having fun? Should we have let her quit because the gnats were in her nose?  Seems to me, the question was truly whether she had a responsibility to her team!  How many of us remind our children that they have obligations to their schools, neighborhoods, dance groups or T-ball teams?

I look back and remember occasions when we may have let our kids simply write off friends they came to find annoying, or be cold to their friends, or fail to thank the bus driver, or dominate conversations with other kids or adults. I have to say, when the Lil Momma came up in the ranks, NO she didn't WANT to write thank you notes, or WANT to return phone calls, or pat a friend on the back for an achievement, but she did, because we made her and taught her that this was the right thing to do. When it comes to developing a child's morality, there are no shortcuts or bargains. We can’t expect morality to magically spring from self-esteem. We need to intentionally cultivate it in our children day to day.

We not only need to keep in check the subtle ways we prioritize happiness, we also need to  emphasize goodness. We can push them to care about others even when it’s not comfortable. Rather than telling them that the most important thing is that they are happy, we can tell them the most important thing is that they are kind.  I'm not sure exactly who said this, but somebody and it wasn't Bitsy.  I read it in a book somewhere.  It went like this: “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.”
We ought to focus on cultivating these skills because then they will be happier. But more importantly, we ought to nurture these qualities in our kids to help them become strong, caring adults, able to create a better and more just world.  All I know is I'm going to do my best to make sure the Webbman is happy and kind and maybe a lil Democrat, but the jury is still out on that.  I really believe they go hand in hand, because we already know he's "special" . . . . . . right?

1 comment:

  1. I love this Mrs. Carleen! I swear I do. I think that is the problem with the world. They worry to much about themselves and not about others. When a person is selfish, we all suffer, but when a person is selfless we all reap the benefits. People get higher and ranks and forget what it was once like at the bottom. They forgot that they themselves had some sort of help getting to where they are. I could never be rich because I would be to busy giving away everything I had to others.