February 6, 2013
"I'm sorry, Daddy. I didn't know."
When a very young child intentionally hurts another, how do we respond? With outrage and anger? Threats and intimidation? None of the above. Young children are ignorant, as in, they don’t know any better. Instead of shouting, a caring adult needs to step in and say to the child, “When you do that, you hurt others. When you hurt others you hurt yourself. The next time you feel so upset that you feel like doing harm, come to me. Let’s talk and work together. I can help you learn to handle those big feelings in safer ways, so that you can be a helper, not a hurter.”
When adults treat children in this respectful, compassionate way, children learn to be compassionate. But when adults respond to a child’s ignorance with anger…. how can they possibly learn about compassion?
When older children and adults behave cruelly it’s harder to view their actions through the “ignorance” lens, but it still applies. When we intentionally harm others, we are, in that moment, blindly ignorant of the hurt we cause. If, in that moment of harming, we had known better we would have done better. That’s why, whenever we get our buttons pushed and are about to lose it we need to calm down and wake up just enough to recognize the damage we are contemplating. And in that moment of pause, we realize that we do, indeed, know better.
All teachers are not parents, but all parents are teachers. Teaching kids to be good people includes teaching them how to manage their destructive emotions in constructive ways. When we witness cruelty between kids we need to summon compassion. Through our compassion for their ignorance we can help children become wiser.
September 10, 2009
President Obama greets high school students (AP photo)
In last night’s speech before a joint session of Congress the President was clear about his goals for health care reform. He also delivered a clear message to Americans about the most effective way to deal with rude and disrespectful people. When the President stated the fact that the health care reform bill does not afford coverage to people who are in the US illegally, Rep. Joe Wilson (SC) shouted “You lie!” making the Congressman the liar. But I digress.
The President could easily have responded to unexpected rudeness as many of us have. He could have handily shot back a history-making zinger. But it was the President’s choice not to that was most note-worthy.
After the speech a friend on Twitter asked “Heckling the Prez? Sheesh! Explain that 2 kids! arg!” If you’re worrying about that, don’t. The real lesson wasn’t in the rudeness of Rep. Wilson (whose name will be remembered for none of the reasons his parents imagined when their son was elected to Congress). The real lesson for kids was delivered by President Obama, some of whose critics were so bent out of shape Tuesday when he visited a high school that at least one was seen carrying a sign saying “Keep the president away from our kids!”
Kids, here’s the real lesson from last night’s “interaction”: When someone disrespects you, you can choose to retaliate or not. When some jerk calls you a liar, or worse, you can do what Barack Obama did last night… you can control yourself. The President’s display of self-respect as well as respect for the people in that room and for the office he holds sends just the right message.