practice versus preach

Because it’s election season, like everyone else my facebook feed is filled up with political opinions and trash talk.  I’m glad to not be bombarded with television ads (because we don’t watch it) — but I have caught brief glimpses of the mud slinging advertisements on either side when at the gym or in a restaurant, or anywhere else there’s a television and I happen to be in front of it. And this is how it goes. I’m sure statistically to get voters to pay attention, campaigns have to raise the stakes, create rebuttals, accuse the other party, there has to be a good reason behind all of this hate that’s coming from either side of the incredibly polarized parties.

But the other day, as I caught glimpses of photos from friends’ children starting their first days of school, I noticed things hanging in classrooms that highlighted and promoted the importance of Character Traits like Respect, Integrity, Cooperation, and Responsibility. Signs shaped like happy sunshines suggest “Smile and say something nice to someone every day” hang in our kids’ classrooms. I’m well aware of anti-bullying policies, and how schools are hyper aware of all types of bullying, in person and on the computer. They preach and preach and preach about the importance of kindness and talk endlessly about the harm that can occur from constant belittling of someone else.

And I thought for a moment, what kind of example are we setting for these kids? Spewing hatred towards others’ values and belief systems over an election?

And then I thought about an article I read (or a book, I can’t remember) that noticed a trend in conflict resolution problems with children. A lot of parents try not to fight in front of their kids (I know mine never did). But tension in a family home is obvious, and kids pick up on it, they know it’s there. Yet how often do they witness the resolution of a conflict? Kids know conflict exists, but how do/will they learn to resolve it if the resolution happens behind closed doors. Think of any kids’ television program, educational or not- there is always a conflict. 28 minutes are focused on the conflict, and only 2 minutes explain how the characters resolve the issue. Everyone knows resolving something takes longer than that.

What the hell?

I mean- how can we expect our kids to grow up with any sense of understanding Character Traits if we don’t practice them and explain: This is what Respect looks like. This is what cooperation looks like. And how can we expect them to believe that “bullying and belittling isn’t right” when we throw out our opinions of other political parties and group people into boxes based on Liberal or Conservative right off the bat? We tell them not to judge a book by its cover, but they all do- and we do, I do.

It just doesn’t make sense.

I need to work on all of it- being an example and explaining myself.


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