4 Things We're Working On Thanks to Election Season
A few days ago, I had to apologize to my 7 year old for overreacting. “You CANNOT treat your sister that way! She is a person! She is not the same as you are, but that doesn't make her any less important!” Of course, I say these things all the time to my children, but this time I said it with more panic, more vehemence. You see, I had spent the morning distressed by all the political news. I'm sure my son did need the reminder of how to treat his sister, but my delivery was informed by this election season. In scolding him, I was feeling the weight of wishing I could scold the world.
I'm not in a position to tell my fellow countrymen how to (especially how NOT to) behave, though I badly wish I could just put the whole place in time-out for an hour to think about how we're acting. It's easy to become depressed over the state of things when we feel that there is just nothing we can do about it, and so my angst is coming out in my parenting. As I reflected on that moment with my son, I resolved to do the one thing I am able to do:
Instead of worrying, I can love and teach my children to act with love. Here are 4 ways of being I hope to instill in my children as I watch what's happening:
1. Don't Call Names
I have renewed my focus on naming my children's behaviors, not them. The 4 year old throwing stuffies and dirty looks at the baby is not A Mean Girl; she is doing something unkind. The 5 year old who is being picky about how the apple is cut needs to learn gratitude and self-control; he isn't A Pill. And I will be careful to describe the politicians I disagree with as making foolish or unkind decisions not Friggin' Idiots, especially in front of the children. The problem is not that politicians are Idiots but that they are choosing to act like them. I want my children to know that they have the option of changing their behavior and are not defined by the bad decisions they make. People were created in the image of God; it's sin that is the problem.
2. Do Good on Purpose
Speaking of bad decisions, those are what happen when we don't set out with the purpose of making good ones. I always hated it when my mother would answer my “But, Mom, I wasn't trying to be mean” with “Yes. But you weren't trying to be kind.” Of course, she was dead right. I tell my kids that if we don't try on purpose to protect people, do good, and show love, then there is a good chance selfishness, carelessness, and even hate might happen instead because sin has infiltrated all of us and all our parts.
3. Find out What's True
“MOM, he TRIED to ruin the level by jumping at the wrong time!” Really, son? Are you sure that it wasn't just a mistake made by a kid who is new to Super Mario? “So-and-So at school said that kid doesn't know anything.” Hmmm, should we believe that? “I'm THE WORST Lego builder in the world!” Do you have enough information to decide that? What's a more true thing we could say? Maybe, “I have trouble making this work how I want it.” Critical thinking about other people, ourselves, and motives is a learned skill. I look around, and I really wonder why so many of us seem not to have learned it! I'm double-checking my assumptions left and right and trying to help my children do the same.
4. Be humble
This one is important. I know sibling rivalry is as old as the hills, but I'm cracking down on “contest talk.” Sorry, kids, it just doesn't matter who finished breakfast first, or who buckled first, or who peed longer, or… We can't be constantly thinking about how we are “better” than others without that informing the way we look at them. By constantly asserting how great we are, even at dumb stuff, we are also implying that other people are worth less. Of course, I do want my children to have confidence, and I hope I am the first one to tell them how fantastic they are. But true confidence is not based on comparison or control of others; and when we can admit that we are by no means perfect, then we can begin to empathize and make a true difference in the world.
I wish I knew what will happen in November, but I don't. And I'm really going to try to stop imagining doomsday scenarios. It's cliché, but true. Charity (and change) begins at home.