One of the frequent comments I hear in my line of work is that children can be mean. I hear expectant parents worrying over what to name their child in fear that it could be morphed into some terrible nickname that their peers can use again them. I see children who were previous successful user of hearing aids refusing to continue with the use of them after being made fun of. I saw bright kids who gradually turned sullen because they were bullied for a speech impediment or learning disability. Yes, children can be mean, but they can also be incredibly loving.
The thing is, children are a reflection of their microenviroment. Their interactions often a mimicry of adults surrounding them. Ever watched a child who stumbled and fell for the first time? There is alway this lag as they search the faces of the adults around them, guage their reaction before deciding if it was a bad incident. If the adults go, "oh no!" and rushes forward, chances are the child would burst into tears. Whereas adults who goes,"come on, it's ok" the child would probably clamber up and move along. Of course that is not always the case, but what I am getting at is children look towards us to guide their behavior.
If we are concerned that children can be mean, then we owe it to them to create a community and an immediate environment that rout out that mean streak. In our own interactions demonstrate goodness, encouragement, empathy, and humbleness. Encourage a child to understand that there will be those who will be weaker than them - help them. There will be those who are stronger than them - seek their assistance. There will be those less fortunate - do your best to even the playing field. I truly believe this, children are not mean, they can be, but they can be so much more.
As we watch the news, as our world seemed to be overshadowed by terrorism, violence, and despair, I urge each and everyone us to take a step back as a community, as a village and think carefully about what kind of world we want our children to inherit, and more importantly what kind of characters they will grow up to be. Fear tactics, disciplinary measures are easy fixes. They have always have because it reduces issues to primal fright, flight or fight responses. Yet, we are so much more than that. As sentient beings, it behooves us to rear children who rise about their basic instincts and approach each other with reason, compassion, and love.
Teach them to target the issue and not attack the person. After all, isn't being mean the result of a cavalier disregard of separating the issue ftom person? Name calling, bully tactics are all simply ways of people to avoid the real problems at hand, it detracts and preoccupied us with the cosmetic battles where a real war needs to be waged.
So I say this, be better, and help our young to strive better. Their love is in abundance, their forgiveness is great, their laughter is a joy to behold. We must create a world where their light will continue to set the world ablaze. We must do what we can to ensure that they will not become cynnical, illogical, irrational, narcissistic, and abrasive personalities that we inadvertently celebrate or broadcast daily on our television sets and social media.
Help our children to be better by being better adults ourselves