“Hearing about [others’] first, big question got me wondering about my own. What is the question that I asked as a little girl and have never stopped asking? How has asking that question defined, even if unconsciously, the choices I’ve made, the things I’ve created, the legacy I will leave behind?” -Courtney Martin
In our Parent Support Group recently we’ve been talking about the legacy we want to leave behind in our children. More than anything, parents want to leave a legacy that their children will embody the values they hold dear. However it’s hard in the minutia of day to day living to focus on legacy. We just want things to run smoothly. And so we create rules. And we neglect to cultivate relationships.
We know that children are keen observers and pay more attention to what we do than what we say. From “Think Orange, Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide” Most parents buy into the myth that what is most important is to pass down the reasons for the rules. If they simply explain why they have the rule it will result in a different response and behavior from their children right?
Truthfully though, I don’t recall a time when I gave such a wonderful explanation of the rules that my children agreed and said in unison, “Oh, now we understand, Father! You have explained it so well, we will do exactly what you say.” The problem with reasons is that you can debate them.”
But while it’s hard for anyone to argue with actions, it’s also hard for us adults trust that if we align our actions to the values we want our children to embody, that they too will come to embody those values.
In their book, “Respectful Parents; Respectful Kids” Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson, give this advice, “Your thoughts about your children will determine how you see them and how you treat them… If you …see your children as capable of handling life, you will convey your confidence, treat them with respect, and give lots of opportunities to make decisions for themselves.”
Here are some questions for you to consider as a parent or caretaker as you create a legacy within your children:
- When you envision your children now, what qualities do they have that you admire or appreciate?
- What’s a quality that you’d want them to have that they don’t yet? – some quality that children of their age are likely to have. What would they be doing that embodies that quality?
I invite you to think about what you could be doing that tells your child you have confidence that they could do those things. How can you embody those qualities? For example, if you want your child to be self-sufficient, what would you be doing now to show them you have confidence that they can take care of themselves? If you want your child to be grateful for what they have, how can you show them you know they can cultivate gratitude?
As we approach the teach in on May 7 on addressing the culture of white supremacy, I ask you to consider what it would look like for your child to uphold our1st Principle – that every person has dignity and worth. What can you do to show them you have confidence that they will not only treat other people with respect, but that they also have the qualities of curiosity, humility, and open heartedness that will help them learn more about the world we all live in and face the challenges it will take to make the world more just?
In faithful service,
Credentialed Religious Educator
Director of Religious Education