Teaching Children Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness
Many years ago, somebody told me that the world has a way of breaking something beautiful because it is so much harder to maintain love than hate. I often think about this, especially when things seem to be going badly. In fact, that sentence alone has changed my life in how I treat others and how I teach my children to treat others.
Good parenting does not come easy.
From the moment a woman becomes pregnant, everything she does affects her child. When they are babies, we feed them, change them, keep them clean and learn what they need through their cries. Just when you think you got it, your child starts to talk and develops a personality and suddenly your whole world changes.
Children soak up their environment. As their parent, you play a major role in shaping who they grow up to become. Every action and reaction we exhibit to our children, conditions them how to respond to things.
Before I had children of my own, I spent a lot of time with my nephew. I always found it interesting to see the way he reacted to things at the age of 3 through 5. I could always tell by the tone he used which one of his family members he had picked up his reactions from.
I have always tried to be the best person I could be, especially after having children. That doesn't mean that I do not slip up. Writers tend to be emotional and overly sensitive people and I am no exception to that. However, setting a good example is extremely important to me.
Teach them to love, not hate.
I try to never exhibit hate in front of my children. I try to never say anything bad about another person in front of my kids. Even when I am furious at somebody, I try my best to get my feelings under control. When you show hate to your children, they in turn learn to hate. They do not understand the reasons for the hate or the feelings behind it.
When you are loving, supportive and encouraging to others, your children will see this and learn that this is the way people should be treated. It starts within your home and extends to the rest of the world. I have always tried to be positive in front of my children and remove them from negative situations.
One thing I was always sure of was that I did not want my son to grow up thinking it was okay to mistreat a woman and I did not want my daughter to grow up thinking it was okay to let a man mistreat her. And vice-versa.
My mother and father were divorced when I was very young. It was not an easy time for my family, as neither of them had good things to say about each other. It especially affected me who was a "Daddy's Girl". I did not understand how my mom could possibly hate my dad the way she seemed to. It wasn't until I was much older that I was able to understand the entire situation and I think it was hard on my mother to see that I still loved my dad even though he had hurt her so badly.
The things I remember the most during that time is seeing my mother cry. It hurt me to see it but, I did not understand it. Instead I got angry each time my mother blamed it on my dad. He had never been anything but wonderful to me so of course I couldn't imagine him being the reason she was upset. Because I constantly defended him, this created tension between my mother and I. It ended up really hurting our relationship.
What parents need to understand is that when your child is young, they cannot possibly comprehend the struggles that adults must endure. You can not bring your young children into your grown up arguments and you certainly can not expect them to take sides. If you and the child's other parent are not able to get a long then fine. Please do not bring your child into it. Your child will resent you for it and you will be the bad guy. You can't teach your child to hate simply because you hate. Protect them from the ugly things!
If I am angry at my children's father, I do not tell my kids about it. Of course sometimes the kids get angry at me or at their father and they go to the one they are not angry at for justification. When they come to me complaining that Daddy punished them, I explain to them why they deserved to be punished. Those kids may seem sweet, but if they can get away with something, they will!
Teach them to be accepting.
What do human beings, snowflakes and the spots on cows all have in common? No two are exactly the same. Young children accept differences because they do not know any better. Eventually though, they do start to notice and compare things. Eventually they will even begin to compare themselves to others.
My children are complete opposites. My son is extremely competitive and has a very hard time accepting when he is not the best at something. I try my best to explain to him that everybody is different and everybody's good at their own things. He is still very young so I am hoping it will sink in eventually.
I am proud to say that at the ages of 7 and 9, my children have never questioned why one person looks different from another. They have never singled anybody out for being different. They have friends from many different races and backgrounds. I have told them many times that people are who they are in the inside not the outside, and inside, we all look the same.
As much as I want my children to be accepting of others, I do not try to hide the past from them. I want my children to be genuine, not blinded. As they get older, I tell them stories of how things were in the past. In fact last weekend, my girl scout troop visited Petersburg National Battlefield in Petersburg, VA. When our work there was finished, I walked around a bit with my daughter. I talked to her about the things we had just learned and how it happened so long ago, but in our very own backyard. I talked to my daughter about slavery and she cried over the thought of her friends not being her friends and being free but belonging to someone. I wanted her to understand these things for two reasons. First, she finds history extremely boring and I feel that if I actually show her things and explain them myself, she might actually become more interested in the things she has to learn in school. And second, although I want my children to accept people for who they are, I also want them to learn from the mistakes people have made in the past and the pain that has been caused by not accepting others.
If you have not read any of my other articles, you may not know that my daughter was born very early. She will always have special needs because of her prematurity. One noticeable part of her is a giant scar across her stomach from a surgery she had as a baby. I have often wondered how she will be accepted by other girls when she gets older because of this. I myself grew up with a different physical appearance. Due to an accident when I was 6 which caused nerve damage, I was never able to smile. I could only smile on one side of my face. Growing up, I got teased quite a bit and quite hatefully by other kids for this. I went through periods of being extremely depressed due to being bullied so badly.
As a teenager I definitely contemplated suicide because the bullying made me so miserable. That is something that I never expressed to my parents or the few friends I did have back then. The difference I think between me and most of the other kids I knew was that I could accept those who were different and I never judged anybody for being different. In the end, I had to learn to accept myself the way I accepted others. That is what helped me overcome my own depression. My goal is to teach my children to accept others and in turn accept any differences they may have as well.
Teach them to forgive.
My mother often jokes that I remember things from before I was born and I still to this day hold a grudge. That is a bit of an exaggeration. I had a bit of a traumatic childhood. I remember a lot of the good times. The bad times tend to blur and I had to reach back in my memories, force myself to remember them in order to understand why I was the way that I was.
It took me a long time to come to the conclusion that I would never fully understand why at 6 years old I had to be broken. I blamed God, blamed my parents, blamed myself which all led to deeper depression and becoming extremely withdrawn.
It wasn't until my early twenties that something clicked. I was at a concert and was asked to get up on stage with my best friend and announce the bands encore to the crowd. We ran a fan site for the band and a lot of people in the crowd knew about it, they also knew I had a super big crush on the drummer. While we were up there talking, the drummer snuck up behind me and surprised me. The crowd went crazy. After the concert, the bass player approached me to tell me what a great job I did. I explained to him that I was very nervous and there was a reason I am a fan and not a performer. He then said once sentence that changed my life. He said "You are going to do great things one day."
I wasn't sure how I could possibly ever do anything great, but if one of the people I looked up to thought so, I should probably believe it. If I could do anything positive I knew I would want to help children and young adults like myself learn to cope with life and distress. First however, I had to heal myself. I learned that in order to forgive, I had to understand. Once I knew that, it was easy for me to search my memories and try to understand as best as I could why the bad things that happened to me, actually happened.
There are some things however, that can't be explained. There are some things we all have to just accept as God's plan for even if we knew the reasons we still may not ever understand them. If that alone can be held true, it becomes much easier to make peace with the bad things. Eventually I began my second degree in order to study Psychology.
At one point, I had to get a psych evaluation. I had been in therapy for awhile at this point as I had gotten to the point in my life where I knew I needed help dealing with my emotions. I was smart enough to know that if I did not get help soon, I may not be able to control my feelings.
During my psych evaluation, I spent hours explaining to the doctor what my life had been like. I left nothing out, the good, the bad, all of it was included. I felt as if I had to be 100% honest or this would not benefit me at all. Once I finished, the doctor looked at me and said "You are a rubber band."
I was not sure what he meant by that. He then went on to explain that any one thing I had just told him about would have been enough to break a person, but I just keep bouncing back. He asked how I can even sit here with a positive attitude after all this.
I explained to him that I had to learn to understand and forgive, that I know if I could not then I would become bitter and resentful. I told him that I had seen it happen, and I did not want to become what I had seen.
While it is important for children to not let themselves be bullied, it is also important that they try to be understanding of the bullies behavior. My daughter has faced several bullies already and although I always inform the school when she tells me about it, I also explain to her that at this age it is most likely not the child's fault that he or she is a bully. Inf act, through dealing with my girl scouts I have often found that the girls who tend to bully others are typically children with older siblings who bully them. In my daughter's case, she always ends up being best friends with her bully within a few months. She seems to have a way of listening to people, trying to understand what they need and doing her best to be sensitive to that. Sometimes I wonder why I even worry about her as she seems to be doing very well at handling aggressive children.
As parents, it is important to teach our children how to let the little things go and how to understand the big things. The best way is to have our children imagine themselves on the other side of things. Teach them how to put themselves in another's shoes.
We should all strive to be role models to our children. This means teaching them to love, accept and forgive. Start by showing your children that you are respectful yourself and they in turn will learn to respect others as well.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Cristina Cakes