The World May be an Unkind Place, But Let’s Teach Our Children to do Better

The World May be an Unkind Place, But Let’s Teach Our Children to do Better
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I’ve spent a lot of time thinking this year about what our kids are absorbing when they see the evening news or hear the adults in their lives talking about it. As a mom, I worry about the caustic words, the hateful sentiments, and the unrelentingly negative tone. I worry because our kids are watching – and they’re learning.

Both of my girls are grown now, but I remember those years when my husband and I did our best to shield them from content we thought would set a bad example. But back then that usually came in the form of R-rated movies or racy song lyrics – not from our leaders.

What are kids learning through osmosis when our representatives flaunt the very rules of behavior that we teach our sons and daughters to uphold? How can we teach them to be accepting and respectful of others when the role models they see on TV refuse to show even a modicum of civility? How can we teach them to be kind when they see hate and just plain meanness so casually dispensed?

I cared deeply about raising my children to be kind – and the majority of American moms and dads share that priority. According to a recent survey conducted by the Sesame Workshop, three-quarters of parents and teachers are more concerned about teaching children to be kind than to be academically successful. Similar proportions of parents say it is very important for their children to be accepting, polite, and to have manners.

But that same research shows that parents are deeply concerned about the environment their children are growing up in. Approximately three-quarters of parents and almost four-fifths of teachers say they “often” worry the world is an unkind place for children. And it takes no more than a few moments watching the news to understand why.

Current media narratives spend more time highlighting people who tear others down instead of demonstrating compassion and mutual respect in the face of differing viewpoints. This is not the climate of conversation, strength, and humanity I want for this country’s children, or the standard to which they should be held. We should strive – and ask – for better.

We must remove this double standard between the values we say we want to teach our children and those we model for them on a public stage. In order for those values of kindness, empathy, and civility to manifest when our young people grow into adults, we must reinforce those lessons at every opportunity – from the kitchen table to the classroom, from sports fields to the halls of government.

We also have to fight back against the media’s impulse to cover only the controversial, the divisive, and the tragic. Good things happen in this county every day in every neighborhood, so let’s tell those stories of commonplace kindness and exceptional bravery. That’s why Born This Way Foundation launched Channel Kindness. It’s a platform dedicated to amplifying stories, identified and documented by young people, that embody the best of our communities and the values we want our children to uphold.

We all care about raising kind children, and we all worry that’s getting harder in a world that often seems like an unkind place. We can change that status quo, but it’s going to take holding ourselves and each other to a higher, better standard. If we want our kids to be the compassionate, empathetic, accepting people we tell them to be, let’s start by expecting the adults in their lives to meet those same standards.

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