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I Want My Children To Be ‘Nice Guys’ Who Aren’t Afraid To Do The Right Thing

Posted: June 4, 2020

Are we as a society completely off track when it comes to parenting? I want my children to be ‘nice guys’, but isn’t it my responsibility to ensure my parenting leads them there?

Some time ago, my nine year old son came home and told me very matter of factly, that his friend G had bragged to him that he was very popular because he was so good at everything. However, G found that this popularity was a nuisance because everyone wanted to talk to him or be with him all the time.

While my son did not find anything wrong with this, I thought to myself, how terribly vain and pompous for a nine year old! G is indeed a very artistically talented boy but whatever happened to being humble?

What also struck me is that this is not a one-off instance. While waiting at a tennis lesson, I had overheard a little girl possibly around seven commenting to her friend about another child in their group, “That boy plays rubbish tennis.”

At yet another time, my son recounted how at playtime, at school, one of the boys in his class was almost brought to tears because a few other boys told him he couldn’t join them as they were much better than him at football.

Are we doing anything wrong as parents?

This got me thinking.

Are we producing a generation of vain and insensitive children? Is humility a dying virtue? How would these children handle failure if they thought they were so unbeatable? What about the other children who weren’t as good at football or tennis or arts? Were they just supposed to fade into the background?

I want my children to be many things but I also want them to be ‘nice’. I want them to be the good guys who aren’t afraid to do the right thing.

As parents, we must take sole responsibility (or at least a large part of it) for our children’s actions and not just the positive ones.

My responsibility as a parent

This led me to wonder if we are unknowingly feeding displays of  vanity and arrogance.

Can we be more careful about our actions and their impact on our children? Have we in our quest to build up their confidence, showered too much praise on them? How do we raise children who are humble yet have a strong sense of self worth, who are confident but sensitive to others and are inclusive, who may be talented but don’t think it is beneath them to help someone not as talented?

I am certainly not an expert and don’t have all the answers but the one thing I do know is that the moment you become a parent, your entire life turns into one big teachable moment.

From simple things like saying ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ to the big ones like how you and your partner handle conflict, how we treat our parents and elders or how we talk to the waiter at the restaurant, admitting our mistake when we are wrong and giving a heartfelt apology, interacting with the less fortunate, it is so important to remember that our children’s eyes are always trained on us, watching and learning.

Recognising privilege and teaching kids to do so too

The current situation in the world caused by COVID-19 has put a lot of things into perspective.

While the lockdown has been enjoyable for many who have been able to catch up on reading, learn new skills, pick up new hobbies and even bake their own bread, for many others it has been an unimaginable nightmare.

A perfect example of how some of us have too much and others do not have enough. Also the perfect time to share some of that excess. Not because we have to or because it gives us fame but because of the sheer joy that giving brings and also let our children experience that joy. From sharing the last bit of your favourite cookie with your sibling who has just annoyed you to contribute to buying food for people in need, nothing beats the high of giving and of realising that possessions don’t define us and that we can be richer by giving away.

Unconditional love is critical

Unconditional love is another big one.

Even now, in my 40s, I still bask in the security that my parents love me no matter what. This gave me and still gives me the confidence that I can be anything I choose to be and that I can try anything I want to. More importantly, this unconditional love gave me the confidence to not be afraid of failure and not let failures define me. How else would I now be venturing into writing when I am a finance professional?

This is what I try to make sure my children know. Not by throwing around a few ‘I love you’s here and there (I honestly can’t remember my father ever explicitly telling me that he loves me) but by being there for them when they need me, by praising their effort despite the outcome and overall showing them that they are always my number 1 priority.

Talk to your kids – regularly

Whenever one of my children tells me about an incident like the one where a boy wasn’t allowed to join a casual football game at playtime for not being good enough, I try to talk to them about how that child must have felt.

Empathy is such a big huge concept for children to grasp. It’s a huge concept to grasp even for many adults. However, I think by making a conscious effort to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and understand that our actions can make someone feel bad or good, we can have a big impact in a largely selfish world.

A child who is not so good at tennis may actually be a shy math genius and we will only know if we take the time and trouble to get to know that little boy and definitely not by excluding him. This is what I try to encourage my children to think about if one of them were to say or do something to indicate they were being pompous and not inclusive.

I am reminded of a powerful quote by Rev. Jesse Jackson that is so simple that children can understand it, yet so meaningful – “Never look down on anybody, unless you’re helping them up.”

There is never a shortage of examples (both good and bad) in the world that make for good dinner time conversation. I remember after last year’s Australian Open, Djokovich, fresh from his win, came across as such a humble human being during the press conference. This was a perfect opportunity to talk with my children (both of whom watched as many matches as they possibly could with great interest) about how a great achievement doesn’t need to translate into pompousness and how nice guys definitely don’t finish last!

Image source: pexels

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A former finance professional who now writes.

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