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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lesson Learned!

(this article appears in The Daily Review Atlas, as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series) 

our children are watching
Of all the lessons I try and teach my kids, the ones that they most understand are the lessons they witness for themselves. Lectures hardly ever work. I know because I've talked until I'm blue in the face with no favorable results.

Take for instance, we recently learned (with much disappointment) about the oxymoron 'personal decision'. I am of the opinion, there is no such thing unless you live like Tom Hanks on a marooned island and your best friend is a volleyball. If you live in a family, if you have friends or if you're a part of a team your decisions are not ever personal. You may make them in private. Maybe you don't think anyone is watching but I'm trying to raise my kids to understand that if your life is in anyway intertwined with other people, it is virtually impossible for your decision to only affect you.

For example, I need to write my article today. I can choose to work at home or I can choose to sit at the local coffee shop, spend a few bucks on coffee and plunk out the words. Is that a life changing decision? Of course not! It seems quite personal, doesn't it? I didn't need to consult my family's schedule or seek the counsel of any wise individuals in order to make this basic decision about a routine task. But what if my decision to sit in a local business encourages the owner? What if my decision today gives the small business entrepreneur a surge of hope that he is gaining new customers?

Where I get gas, does it matter? What about whether I choose to be kind when I return my package to the customer service desk at the store? Can I expect my kids to tell me the truth when I they overhear my dishonest excuses for missing an appointment? Or what about the law? Does it matter if I choose to only obey the laws that I deem weighty? If I do what are my actions conveying to my children?

Let's look at something as simple as the rules of the road. Pretend with me that I chronically roll through stop signs? How can I expect my children, when riding around on their bicycles, to be careful and stop before crossing the street? Haven't I set a precedent that it's not really that important to stop when the sign lawfully commands it? Or that being in a hurry is an ok excuse to not obey rules? What if my kids do as I do and they run stop signs and end up getting hit? We could deduct that my decision to ignore marked intersections affects others.

Everything I choose to do or don't do is communicating something to my children. I became harshly aware of this when recently I was stopped at an intersection where a man in a wheel chair sat propped with a sign asking for money. I pretended I didn't see him, instead I prayed for the light to turn green as quick as possible. My daughters, who also witnessed the man's public begging, asked me why I didn't help him. In their innocence they believed the man needed our gift. Right or wrong, I questioned the validity of his situation and choose to ignore him. And that choice conveyed the message to my children that their mom doesn't help others.

Make no mistake our everyday, minor and major decisions convey messages and directly affect those around us.

I'm certainly not suggesting that we weigh each decision as if the axis of the planet depends on it. Nobody has time for that and quite frankly it's unrealistic. I'm simply calling for an awareness that our lives are affected and affect others. Something as simple as choosing to wake my children up with a smile and a good attitude on school mornings can make their whole day go better. Isn't that a choice being aware of? A choice worth making?

What would happen if we all became more aware of our decisions? What if we choose to be happier? Choose to live healthier or choose to work harder? Not all the time but what if we choose to be 10% more helpful? What if we picked up the trash blowing down our neighborhood street rather than cursing the neighbor who let it go? What if we choose to get off Facebook at work and get that report finished? Wouldn't that lead to a better choice, which could lead to another better choice and then another? Would we be better people? Would our community be kinder? Safer?

If nothing else, may we come to realize that our decisions - no matter how big or small - are effectual. May we be a people that look up from our little screens and our little tweets and make a decision to participate in life, make a decision to enhance the lives of those who live and work and play where we do. Wouldn't that be a step in the right direction? I certainly think so! Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!






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