By: Grace Cross, Editor of The Baby Spot
Originally Posted Here
As I walked with my four year old down a busy city street in the sweltering heat, I stopped momentarily to grab my key out of my purse so I was prepared to unlock a building door. As I reached for the front glass door, an elderly gentleman beat me to it, opened the door for both myself and my daughter.
“Thank you!” I said with a smile. I hear my daughter’s tiny voice echo her thank yous.
“You’re welcome.” He said smiling back and headed out the door and down the busy street. I love to open the door for people and I am grateful when anyone takes time out of their day to open the door for me. I don’t expect anything said to me when I open the door for someone, if it puts a smile on your face to have the door opened for you then that is great. If I don’t get a thank you, no worries, I wanted to open it for you and that is that. In retrospect, I am grateful when someone does a nice little deed for me. It reminds me that the strangers around us are too, three dimensional who think, feel and are going through things in their life whether it be good or bad.
I like people.
But then I looked down at my daughter. I have spoken to waiters and people in service who are shocked at how today’s youth does not use manners. How many children interrupt or swear at their parents when a service individual has briefly taken their parent’s attention to do their job. Basic manners are not mandatory and definitely not mandated by any law in any country that I am aware of. However, it makes all of our lives a little easier.
As human beings, we are a social creature, but little ‘isms’ and human nuances can get on everyone’s nerves. I get it. I’ve been there. Someone not yielding to the right on an escalator for the quicker walkers to walk passed you is social suicide in some cities. Loud talkers in some countries are considered the norm, whereas in my city and in others, it’s considered extremely rude for everyone to have to hear your conversation. In an age where we are blessed to live with different people, cultures and ideas, we can get on each other’s nerves. We can misunderstand and misinterpret each other. There are literally some cultures who shake their heads from side to side meaning ‘no’ and other cultures that shake their head from side to side meaning ‘yes!’ The confusion and naivetés of one another can cause conflict and therefore can make the world a bit of a more challenging place to live in.
So before the keyboard warriors come out and tell us how I and everyone else can do it better, stop! I have three gifts that you can buy your children or even buy yourself that with a simple investment, will make your life easier. With a very unprofessional and uncertified rating system, I will give you a cost break down and an approximate amount of time for every gift to be properly consumed.
The best part of this is, I don’t even have to provide backlinks to any of these gifts because they’re right in front of you. So, put your credit cards down.
Beyond the screams of a child in a toy store of the sighs of a preteen because Mom or Dad did not let them buy “this cool app, look, it’s only $3.99” is thankfulness. We can’t blame our children. They come from an instantaneous gratification society, a society that gives them information at their fingertips. I am not advocating for this to be taken away, oh no, I think technology is great for the most part. But when we live in a society where we have advertisements telling us we want something, then your children may see a little snippet on the news, of a Syrian family narrowly avoiding death, of a shooting nearby or something that humanizes them that makes them think “well, this did not happen to me, this does not happen here.” The feelings of life start to flood in, but are immediately interrupted from that text of a friend, a new advertisement or another distraction. Before we ask our children to “Be helpers” as Fred Rogers from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood so eloquently put it, we need to remind our children in an age where it seems everyone gets everything right away, to be thankful.
The best way to teach your children, in my humble opinion is to lead by example. No one wants every outing, every experience to be some lesson or lecture. But when a parent shows thankfulness in front of their children, “I am thankful I got home twenty minutes early today and I was not caught in traffic.” “Just got back from the doctors kids, I am thankful for that clean bill of health.” A child starts to hear that behavior and mimic it. Being thankful for a gift, to live in a safe area, to have a loving family is a wonderful seed to plant. A child must be thankful for what the opportunities they have before they can provide opportunities for others.
To add, saying “Thank you” to others, like people who hold the door for your family, serve you in restaurants or in retail settings, deserves a thank you from you and your children if they were kind and attentive.
The greatest thing about thankfulness is you can start when they are infants. Yes, a parent even speaking to their child is soothing. You can introduce this at any age and I promise, it will help shape your children and also keep you in check in a world that can sometimes seem cruel.
Final Cost: 0
Time: About 5 to 10 seconds for each thankful thought.
1 Minute relaying thoughts to others.
Understanding can be a tricky one. I am in no means asking you to teach your children to let every bully walk over them “maybe he or she has a hard life and that is why they punch you in the face every day after school, dear.” Or “this person is trying to get me fired from work but maybe they need to feed their family more than I need to feed mine.” That is not the understanding I am advocating for. Protect yourself!
The understanding I am asking for is for your children to function with others who do not think like them. We have this new opportunity where the whole word is connected, a whole world that has opinions, many of them different from their own. I have traveled a bit over the course of my life and created this global parenting magazine on two premises, celebrating the similarities and embracing the differences of parenting practices worldwide. The whole “we are all the same” movement is nice and all and as a people we do share some amazing similarities in both genetics and thought processes, but it is silly and almost ignorant to ignore the vast differences from culture, people and society. Those differences, though foreign to some, are interesting, beautiful and quite frankly, I prefer it. I prefer my thought processes to be challenged and questioned. It either teaches me something new or helps me reform my original opinion to be stronger. As long as the learning process is healthy, I am all for it.
We must teach our children understanding. People have different needs. We have some children who recognize certain religious practices during the day. In retrospect, we have children who require certain understanding. There are children who are religious, not religious, have different ways of thinking or perception like children with autism. The point is, we think differently and we perceive the world differently. We need to understand each other and learn about different types of people.
So what does that mean? Perhaps enrolling your children in a language class, to have a second language under their belt. It’s a new opportunity for your children to learn about a new culture and make new friends speaking their second language. It could be volunteering at a homeless shelter, so your children can interact with people who live differently than themselves. It could also mean having your children meet other children outside of their regular circles, volunteering at a reading program or if extra time is tight, reading about a new country, culture or religion every night for ten minutes. You don’t have to have your degree or be an expert in a subject to get a sense of understanding.
My mom for a short period of my childhood would grab one of her encyclopedia’s, (yes, the book ones not the ones online) and read us a little snippet of a country, culture or place while we ate breakfast before school. Maybe this is corny but it’s true, I enjoyed it! It must have stuck in my head throughout the years, because even though I may not remember anything she read to us, it planted the seed to learn more about everything, to understand to the best of my ability.
I think understanding comes with educating your children. Whether they are destined for a doctorate in medicine or changing the world with Tool and Dye, education breeds understanding. A combination of books and street smarts is a beautiful thing.
Time= ongoing dedication
Do you have that child who wants to adopt every stray animal they find? Do you have a child who does not bully others even if everyone else is doing it? You have raised the empathetic child, one of the most beautiful creatures on the planet. A child who many would say is beyond their years, I would humbly say is right where they are supposed to be. To get their peers to think and to inspire adults to remember.
If your child is none of those things, don’t worry! Empathy can be demonstrated and you can ‘wake up’ your child to think in a different way.
For those parents whose child is not empathetic, with most children, you can lead with example. With children with mental health challenges, leading with example, as you well know, may not work.
But you have to live empathy if there is any hope for your children to be empathetic. Showing empathy for other people’s pain is a gift your child will never know how important it is to have. Empathetic people are the seeds that grow ideas into beautiful plants. When one person, combined with understanding, empathizes with another, it helps build bridges with humanity and not make the gap between human being to human being, even bigger.
How you can express empathy is key. You won’t yell at that waitress who took an extra five minutes to fill up your cup because you can see she is waiting on at least ten other tables and you know this task is next to impossible. So you show and exhibit patience. Yelling never helps anyone anyway. You will donate your clothes to those new immigrants to your country because you know they have never felt a winter like yours and you want them to bundle up and stay warm and cozy as they get to know this new land. You use kind words to others, you hear peoples pain and you respond instead of ignoring. You are alive and you act like it.
Time: a full time investment at first, but then it comes naturally.
These three gifts are not only a must have for the family, but if you use them as a combo, you can get results far greater than buying into just one. With all three gifts, you give yourself a huge discount in time management!
The media is always talking about role models and who will be the role model for your child? You see celebrities protesting that they just sing songs or act in movies and never asked to be your child’s role model. You know what? They’re right. You never asked them to. You don’t need to because you are their role model. It may not seem like that when they run off with their friends without saying goodbye or are rude sometimes. But they are listening. They are observing. You are the answer to your children getting these three gifts. With a onetime investment on behalf of your children, you can really change their life. I am not promising perfection. But what I am promising is you and your family making a difference, no matter how small, in your community and your world. All cliché aside, stop buying into what people tell you that you need to buy your family and invest in these three gifts for life.