Thursday, January 13, 2011

Let's Play Nicely!

Mollie writes:

All the startling commentary coming out these days concerns how we should express ourselves when disagreeing with others. Yes, each of us has the freedom of speech, but we keep forgetting that with that freedom comes the responsibility to be civil. It's just that easy.

Civility starts in the home, frankly. It begins with how parents communicate with each other and continues with how they communicate with their children. Our children learn, from us, how to respect their friends' opinions, their parents' directives, their own social responsibilities and all other social behaaviors. It's no surprise that polite children come from homes where the language of kindness and common courtesy is spoken. It's just that easy.

We've discussed bullying here, and certainly, "mean-mouthing" others is a crushing form of bullying. Discussing personal information about others simply has no real place in humane conversation. Spreading rumors, promoting intolerance, and just simple ridicule is a form of abuse that we have to curb. It's just that easy.

Calling people names has no place in civil discourse. Children who hear parents dehumanizinng others learn that other people's humanity is questionable. Calling a person an idiot, stupid, lazy, or any other of a number of names does not promote civil discourse. Instead, it deflects the importance of a particular issue and replaces it with anger and hostility. In no way does it encourging common ground, instead it widens the gulfs that exist between people. It's just that easy.

Simply because one person does not share your spiritual perspective does not mean that they will burn in hell for eternity. Confusing children about salvation while advocating damnation for others simply doesn't make sense. Teaching a child that another is a second class citizen because they don't worship defies explanation. Faith should be a gift, but lack of faith shouldn't be a curse. It's just that easy.

And violent talk? When was a difficult issue resolved with a spank, punch, shot or other act of violence? Representing problem resolution with acts of violence rather than civil discourse simply exacerbates hostility. Leave the crosshairs at the shooting range. It's just that easy.

When your children disagree, you have to respect all arguements, not just the ones you are comfortable with. Some kids worry about their weight, others worry about their grades, some fuss over both and some are oblivious to either. But one truth holds true: Children who learn to tolerate and love fair much better in life than children who learn to hold others in contempt. It's just that easy.

When disagreeing in the home, set some ground rules. No name calling. No God-referencing. No lying, no exaggeration. And, please, no threats. If one child is annoyed by another child's thoughts, behavior, talents, moods, clothes, etc. encourge them to discuss it. But keep your kids on topic and you'll find that problem resolution is much easier.

I've made my share of mistakes, we all do. But if we keep our eyes on maintaining the other's self respect while offering your take on things, life for all of us will more peaceful.

It's just that easy.


  1. I'm not quite sure what you mean by no "God-referencing". Surely you don't mean that we're not to instill in our children our beliefs about God, especially if said faith dictates that we are to raise our children to know the faith... right? So far as I'm concerned, I can explain to my children that other people believe other things, even if I don't agree with them... even if my faith says that it is the One and Only Truth, leaving no room for other religions to be right. I don't believe we can be wishy washy in our faith, not if we truly believe in it and live our lives accordingly.

    Just my .02


  2. I needed to be clearer. So many kids these days are raised in an environment that either damns you if you accept a particular set of theisms, or condemns you if you don't.

    Some children are raised to believe that sexuality, religious orientation, ethnicity, and other personal conditions can result in the withdrawl of God's love. Some children are told they are delusional when they express their beliefs in God - which is equally intolerant.

    While I raised my children to be Christian in their beliefs, I strained to establish respect in our household for other theisms (or athiesms) in the community.

    A young adult whom I love dearly told me that God would be sending gays and lesbians to Hell. Another strongly believes that Islam is evil. I civilly disagree.

    It's important to teach our children that each of us is precious to God, if in fact, we are emphasizing God's love. We may not always seem loveable, but each of us is.

    To bring up a child in an environment where some children are saved and some condemned begs for reconsideration. In encouraging civil discourse, representing a god of intolerance and hate is counterproductive.


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