Despite what fairy tales teach our children, we don’t live in the white and black world of good and evil. In fact, the older I get the more I feel that everything is, in fact, just many forms of grey.
I know many Canadians have been thrown by the current US political climate which seemed to boil over into our lives. I read a lot of posts on social media from concerned parents about how to explain this “new world” to their children. I have personally had a tough time in these reality tv years as I feel we are glorifying bad behaviour as popular (and terrible) role models for our children. In contrast, the parents I know work hard to try to teach their children to be fair and want to teach their children to consider others feelings. So, how do we navigate parenting in this world where there are powerful people spreading messages that directly hinder the messages we want to teach our children?
Although simplified, the “there are no bad people just people making bad choices” is a good starting place for small children. I like this messaging because it shows that anyone can make a bad choice, including you as a parent and including your child. If they aren’t classified as a bad kid just because they made a poor decision, it means they can recover from that bad choice and go on to make a better one next time. Hopefully, that is reassuring to your child. My step-mom used to say often to us (typically through gritted teeth) that “she loved us but didn’t like the decisions we were making.” Very true…especially, in those difficult teen years!
For older children, teens and adults, I’m a fan of the two wolves’ parable, which my dad told to me when I was about 10 years old. I have remembered it and still use it to help remind myself of the decisions I can make as an adult especially when one bad choice becomes many. If you don’t know it, this is the two wolves’ parable:
An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life…”A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
“One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.
“The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
“This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old chief simply replied, “The one you feed.”
When the world offers your children counterproductive messages from adults who should know better. When adults are not good role models for our children, I use this parable to help explain the world.
The hardest part (at least that I’ve seen) of parenting is letting go and letting your kids make mistakes. Letting them make some bad choices so they can learn from them. Luckily, we can affect how we behave by making choices ourselves and teaching our children that, they too, can make good choices. It may be cheesy but it helps me explain the world to the children in my life. I hope it helps the children in yours.
Be brave. Be strong. Be the change you want to see in the world.