Are You Allowing Small Ways to Show Character to Ride By? What are We Teaching Our Children?
Dr. Robyn Silverman
Adults love talking about values with children. Show respect! Be responsible! Demonstrate some kindness!
While we talk about character all year ’round, it seems that Fall gets everyone in learning mode again.
Since the Powerful Word for September’s Powerful Word was Respect, and October’s Powerful Word is Responsibility, I’ve been hyper-focused on those words. It’s a good thing. It challenges me to find ways to be more respectful and responsible. But it also makes me see the glaring ways we all fall down on the job– the job of actually showing children that we exhibit character ourselves NOT just tell them to do it.
A few weeks ago I was leaving for to see some of our favorite local teens from Randolph High in a summer production of the musical, Grease. It was 7pm. Rush hour. My husband and I sat in my car at the end of the street for about 7 minutes before some kind soul stopped and let me merge onto the main road. Thank goodness. Otherwise I might be still sitting there now. I’d like to send out a public “thank-you” to the person who actually took the extra 3 seconds to let me in! Thank-you, wherever you are!
There are daily opportunities to put our character into active motion. As parents, we must recognize them and make the choice to take them. These two steps are crucial to not only making the world a better place but also showing children that we actually do in fact “walk the talk.”
I say “recognize” because (and correct me if you disagree) some people just don’t see the opportunity to show character even if it hits them square between the eyes. Know anyone like this?
For example, my husband Jason and I were enjoying some quality time at the Dog Park with our fabulous furry friend, Casey. We saw a mother walking with her son (maybe around 9 years old), when their dog squatted and did his “doggie business.” Instead of bagging it up like everyone else, the mother and son just walked on by as if the rules of the dog park (and common decency) didn’t apply to them.
It makes me want to find more ways to show character– even in small ways. I mean, look around! You’ve got to stop and think! For example, it was about 9am on Monday morning. I had just finished at the gym and stopped at the local “Stop N’ Shop” to pick up my weekly groceries. I was rushing around…as we all tend to do. An elderly woman who had parked next to me was loading her groceries into her trunk when she stopped and asked me, “will you be needing a cart?” I said, “Sure. I’d be happy to take that for you.” She smiled gratefully and sighed, “that would be really helpful.” You know, it made me feel good.
I have to tell you that my initial thought when she asked me if I needed a cart was “yes, I’ll get one inside the store.” I mean, that’s what we’re programmed to do, isn’t it? We rush around and sometimes don’t even see the opportunities to put our character into active motion. We want our children to keep their eyes open for ways they can use their Powerful Character but sometimes forget that we have to slow down every once in a while to recognize the opportunities to use the lessons ourselves!
Funny, I walked away thinking; “That lady had a good idea. And it’s such an easy concept!” That small exchange would keep carts from hitting parked cars and store workers from having to chase carts in every conceivable place in the parking lot. We all know that most people do not return the carts to the assigned parking spot anyway.
So I figured, I’d try the same thing when I left the store. This must be “the lesson” I was supposed to get from this brief exchange! What goes around comes around right? Yes, I recognize that this is a very unscientific study– but it was worth a try.
There was a guy walking towards the store with his son (probably about 8 years old) when I had finished loading the groceries into my trunk. I turned to the father and asked, “Will you be needing a cart?” I had to smile to myself since I sounded just like the women who spoke to me a half hour before.
Well, guess what happened? The man looked at me with a quick side glance and said, “Nah, we’re only getting a few things,” and walked on by. I’m totally serious. He didn’t take the cart even though he was walking inside the store right past the cart retrieval area. His son just shrugged as he looked up at his Dad and they just kept walking.
I was a bit stunned. Should I have been? That wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen! What was this guy teaching his son? It made me wonder if I might have missed this opportunity before– how many of us do? I shook my head.
Stop. Think. Put character in active motion. So I figured that I could still do my part. I mean, do we really need to leave our carts by the front of our cars and back out? Why not show some responsibility? So I wheeled my cart across the parking lot to the cart return. It was a beautiful day. It wasn’t difficult. It wasn’t even very far.
I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal. But I think about these things because, as parents and as educators, we’re not just teaching character. That would be going only half way. We are teaching our children to act. If we don’t recognize the opportunities ourselves, are we just full of it? And if we don’t put our own character in active motion, even in these small ways, are we leading by example?
Would love to hear your take on the topic. Please comment below.
Have a Powerful Weekend- I’m in Oklahoma City for a few days!
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