We are in the age of subjective parenting standards driven by the social media highlight reel. It is a race of time to show the world what an amazing parent you are by virtue of the perfectly behaved and well-adjusted child.
Not a day goes by that someone posts something resulting in unsolicited validation or, as in the recent news of Harambe, the gorilla, a virtual parenting debate. In a world driven by hashtags such as #winning #greatkid #superstarson and #futureMVP, let me make some hashtag suggestions: #acceptance. #kindness. #generous.
Now, think of the posts showing in your feed from other parents. Could you apply those new hashtags to those photos?
Cue the photo of little Timmy holding his first grade star chart along with a Certificate of Excellence. Timmy, smiling ear-to-ear in the picture, taken only moments ago, followed by a second, third and finally a collage of images reflecting his expression of heightened joy as he soaks in the accolades via mom’s social media post. What did Timmy do to earn such prestige at this tender age?
He, according to his teacher, consistently sought out the classmate who others
would alienate because the classmate had multiple handicaps. While the other classmates were not mean to the child, it was Timmy who took the time –albeit slower time, to help the classmate slowly cut the shapes in art class. It was Timmy who would seek out the classmate to sit together at the lunch table; and it was Timmy who would forfeit his own “first 5 picked” round so he and his classmate could stand together as the last two (we are a two-for-one) in the playground game of dodge ball.
Let’s go back. Using this scenario, imagine this photo of Timmy with his certificate and the hashtags #greatkid, #superstarson and #futureMVP.
Conversely, now, the character-focused hashtags: #acceptance, #kindness, #generous.
Throws a different slant on how we not only present our children to the world, but also how we shape our child’s perception of character. There is a difference between “I’m proud of you Timmy. You received an award,” versus “I’m proud of you Timmy and that your behavior for always helping others was recognized.”
What can you do to become an amazing parent that doesn’t require social media bragging rights? You can teach your child three simple things that will serve his life long after the likes fade and the meme’s go out of style.
Tolerance refers to an attitude of openness and respect for the differences that exist among people. Although originally used to refer to ethnic and religious differences, the concepts of diversity and tolerance can also be applied to gender, people with physical and intellectual disabilities, and other differences, too.
- Like all attitudes, tolerance is often taught in subtle ways. Even before they can speak, children closely watch — and imitate — their parents. Kids of all ages develop their own values, in great part, by mirroring the values and attitudes of those they care about.
- Many parents live and work in diverse communities and have friends who are different from themselves in some (or in many) ways. Parents’ attitudes about respecting others are often so much a part of them that they rarely even think about it. They teach those attitudes simply by being themselves and living their values. Parents who demonstrate (or model) tolerance in their everyday lives send a powerful message. As a result, their kids learn to appreciate differences, too. (source: Parenting.com)Related read: Mild Mannered or Simply Sickening? 3 Ways to Help Your Kids Learn Good Manners
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 11% of children aged 6 to 14, about 4 million children, have a disability. Although many of these students attend special schools, with the legislation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2007, more and more students with special needs are now being included in the “regular” classroom. How can parents guide their kids to be sensitive to the needs and feelings of their classmates with special needs?
- Encourage children to find common ground. No two people are alike, but everyone has something in common. Regardless of differences, it’s important to encourage children to look for things that they can relate to in others. Do both students adore the classroom hamster? Are both great basketball players? Finding common ground builds character and strengthens interactions between children.
- Teach them to ask questions. It’s almost always okay to ask about the experience of a disabled peer. The key is to be considerate and respectful of when, where, and how those questions are asked. Everyone wants to be understood. When children learn to see beyond the mystery of a disability, communication and understanding can blossom.
- Ask them to lend a hand. When a child leaves for a special session outside the classroom she can miss important information. Encourage your child to show responsibility in assisting the returning student. Ask your child to think about a time when he missed school because of sickness. The teacher and other students probably helped him catch up on material he missed. Ask him to return the favor, by sharing notes or assignments with a child who’s been out of the classroom.
- Don’t just discuss weaknesses, point out strengths.Each person has his unique strengths and weaknesses. The boy who leaves for special education instruction may also be the top soccer player in the class. The girl with the walker may be the best artist. Encourage your child to seek strengths in his classmates and to respect each person for who he is.
- Lead by example. Parents always have the opportunity to teach by example. How do you feel about your child’s enrollment in a class with special needs peers? Do you welcome the thought of smaller class size when some students are away? Do you remember the total head count when planning for class treats? Your actions and words will tell your child how to respond to his classmates. So lead the way!
Patience is a virtue that can be instilled in children. Patience teaches children the value of delaying gratification, a skill necessary for maturity. Patience can help develop the ability to think through and resolve problems; it can counteract impulsivity and acting out behaviors. The value of patience lies in its ability to lead to inner calm and emotional strength of character. Teaching patience by example helps children learn resilience, self-containment, and the ability to self-soothe. These are qualities needed for emotional maturity. (What we’re reading: How Depressed Dads Can Lead to Troubled Toddlers)
- Teach by modeling. Refrain from snapping impatiently at your children. Use “no-shaming” techniques to help your child understand that she or he may need to wait or take some time before a need is addressed or request is fulfilled.
- Take time to look at the child and listen carefully when she is talking to you. Giving your attention even when you are distracted or busy shows the quality of patience more clearly than words can explain it.
- When the kids are demanding you to do something right away refrain from yelling at them to “stop,” or “be quiet,” (or worse.) Instead, explain to the children the reasons you may not be able to fulfill their requests immediately. Match your explanations to the child’s age and level of maturity.
- Offer the child something to do in the interim, and be sure to return to tending to the child’s request when you say you will. Having your attention at the end of a period when the child must be patient will be rewarding and tend to reinforce the patient behavior.
- Work with your kids to resolve problems when they are frustrated with trying to deal with something. Help to trouble shoot and think things through together. This will demonstrate patience by example. (source: education.com)
As you can see, to have a truly amazing child, you must first be an amazing parent. Already there? Share your success – we would love to hear from you and possibly feature your story in an upcoming blog.
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