A few days ago I stopped to pick up a salad for lunch. The drive-thru line was long so I decided to go in. It was just as busy inside. I waited in line behind a group of young boys (about 12 -13). We ended up waiting for our orders together. As the boys got their food, one boy felt slighted. You see, the server failed to give him the cup for his drink.
He indignantly told his friends. “They’re trying to cheat me! He didn’t give me a cup for my drink!” He went back up to the counter and, in an accusatory tone, told the harried server that he hadn’t gotten his drink. Without hesitation, the man behind the counter quickly apologized and handed him his cup. Hardly the behavior of someone who was trying to get over on someone else.
Feeling vindicated, the young man snatched the cup and went to fill it.
It took everything within me, not to say something to him. Maybe I should have. As I left, I wondered where he learned that kind of behavior – to assume the worst, to play the victim and to treat someone so rudely at such a young age? Chances are he learned it at home.
When we talk about the legacy we want leave our children, we talk about life insurance, a successful business or some sort of financial windfall. However, the legacy we truly leave is a lot deeper and more pervasive than money.
The mental, emotional and intellectual lessons we teach our children will be the determining factors in the adults they become; how they live their lives, the choices they make and ultimately what they will pass on to their kids.
This boy was taught to assume the worst. People were out to cheat him, to take from him, make a fool of him. The way he snatched that cup, it didn’t seem like he’d been taught to be polite or cordial. He was angry and he had to learn that somewhere.
Kids listen to what adults say and they watch what they do. If we consistently respond with anger, indignation and suspicion, then we can’t expect our kids to do behave any differently. I’ve heard parents cursing, arguing and just exhibiting all sorts of bad behavior in front of their kids as if it doesn’t matter. It does. It makes a difference.
“Do as I say and not as I do” doesn’t work. Kids will do what you do. Forget about what you say.
If you consistently talk about how your race/gender/... is holding you back, then you child will grow up feeling defeated.
If you constantly maintain dysfunctional relationships or badmouth your partner (or their other parent), your child will grow up feeling that that kind of behavior is the basis for adult relationships.
If you don’t show compassion for others and help them when you are able, can you really be surprised when they grow up to lack compassion or behave selfishly?
If gratitude is a foreign concept for you, it will be foreign to your child as well.
The sad thing is that children are malleable. Parents mold, shape and guide them. I have to say, it scares me sometimes when I think of the shape some of these children are being molded into and where they are ultimately being guided.