I have been watching groups of children in various settings this week. The way they play and interact, their behavior, their words and actions. Somewhere in all that observation it struck me that this is the pool from which our future leaders may be drawn. I became worried.
I heard “no,” “shut up,” and “I don’t have to” more times than I could count – and many times those words were spoken to an adult. I watched children push and shove their way past each other and anyone in their path without regard for injury or inconvenience. There are children unable to help wash dishes because they are too small to reach the kitchen sink who know more swear words than I do. I heard children taunt and tease each other over every little quirk or difference. I actually heard laughter over someone’s injury. I felt sick.
I find fewer children that understand and practice basic manners. Concern for oneself appears to be the main concern in so many cases. Respect seems to be a foreign word to many. I confront several children who believe they should be afforded the same rights and privileges as adults. I’m not sure which is coveted more, building themselves up or tearing others down. I am angered.
Is my memory that clouded, that I don’t remember being this harsh with my peers as a 7-10 year old? Oh, I remember 13-17 being horrible. But, not 7! We’ve all had our moments when we weren’t so nice, but somehow that has swelled exponentially now. How did we get to this place? How do we get out of this place?
What kind of world will we be living in if this what our children learn? How are we missing this crucial point by so much? I watch, I listen, and I am truly scared for our future. Does no one else see this? Is no one else concerned?!
We can’t keep waiting for children to “outgrow” vile behavior. This is our responsiblity. We create and shape our own future by teaching our children. If we want to be treated with respect and kindness when we are unable to care for ourselves, then we need to instill that understanding in our children now. Compassion must be learned. We must be the teachers.
Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte
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