What are we teaching our kids?

As Easter drew near, I realized that I had forgotten to pick up a few things, and ended up having to go grocery shopping on Saturday; the day before Easter!  I knew it was going to be a horrible day for shopping, but I gritted my teeth and headed out anyways.  I was completely right.  The store was packed and everyone, equally stressed by the crowds, glared at every person they passed.  There were no slight smiles, or tired nods of the head, as people navigated the aisles with their over-filled grocery carts.  Only scowls when you didn’t move fast enough or when you parked your cart to the side of the aisle so you could reach a product.  I was bustled, pushed, and cut off at every spot in the grocery store and I found myself returning the same scowls that were directed at me.

Finally, as I was walking towards the checkout, trying to avoid running over anyone, I was slammed in the back of the legs by a cart.  It wasn’t a tap but a full out crush that crumpled my one knee and sent a throbbing pain from my other heel.  I took in a sharp inhalation of breath and turned, expecting to see my husband with a second cart carrying our two kids.  He was way behind and a very angry looking woman was staring at me.  “Sorry,” she mumbled in a forced tone and then pushed past me and stole the place in line that I was heading to.  There was no, “Are you all right?”  No pause to see if she had injured me severely, just a terse sorry before she continued on with being particularly rude.  As I watched her move away, the only thought that was running through my head was, “My God, what are our children going to turn out like?”

This isn’t the first time that question has filled my head as I wondered what we are teaching our children without even realizing it.  We are so caught up in life and getting ahead that we have lost some of the mannerisms that made us a superior species.  I try to practice the manners that were ingrained in me as a child but every time someone treats me rudely or doesn’t even give a polite thank you, I wonder if it is worth it.  I’m sure you know what I am talking about, holding doors open for people that are right behind you, giving a friendly wave to someone on the street or even giving up your seat to someone who needs it.

Only last week while I was at a children’s museum and waiting for a star show to begin, I experienced another time when I wondered what our children were learning.  The room was quickly filling up and a group of mother’s sat their rambunctious children on the only bench in the room.  The rest of the children and adults sat on the mats provided for the floor.  I had already secured a seat on the bench for myself and my husband and my kids were sitting on the floor (a much better place to be since you could lay back to enjoy the show on the ceiling).  Just as the show was about to start, an elderly woman came in with her grandchildren.  Looking around the room, she noticed that the bench was taken so she began to lower herself to the floor.  She was groaning and saying to her one grandchild, “I’m not sure if I can sit down there, honey, my hip might not let me.”

Before she could sit, I was across the small space and offering my seat to her.  She was embarrassed and asked me if I minded sitting on the floor but I told her not to worry about it.  (Actually, my husband gave me his seat and he sat on the floor instead.)  Not one of those mother’s asked their children to sit on the floor so that the elderly woman could sit comfortably and they all stared at me when I offered my seat. I felt embarrassed that their eyes were on me but I wondered what lesson their children just learned in that instant.  Did they learn that their wants are more important than the needs of the elderly?  I also wondered what my children had learned from me as I navigated around children to say, “Mam’ would you like my seat?”

So where am I going with this little rant about proper manners, it’s simple, what are we teaching our children without even realizing it. If we are impolite to people, we are teaching our children that it is okay to be impolite.  If we obsess about the latest device that will make our life that much better, then our kids are going to believe that a better life can be purchased and they will begin to put more stock in manufactured goods than they do in people. If we constantly pursue anything, money, success, careers, the bigger home, the longer trips, the perceived “better life”, without taking time to enjoy the simpler things in life, then we are teaching children that all those things are more important than simply spending a sunny afternoon braiding dandelions together into crowns.

I know these are all the extreme but we often wonder what is happening to today’s youth and parents truly need to look at what their actions are telling their children. We also need to look at ways to teach compassion and ultimately look at what is more important to us; success, money, fame or our children and teaching them how to be wonderful adults that are compassionate, and caring as well as successful.

On that note, I will leave the topic open but please check back tomorrow to read some ways to teach children how to be compassionate and to instill morals in your child.

Morals are not taught in school, they are not genetic and they can be forgotten simply by watching the actions of those around them.  I had a wake up call a few months ago and this Easter just confirmed it, the way to a better life is in knowing that I have helped my children become a wonderful and compassionate adult by trying my hardest to be compassionate as well.


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