It all begins with raising a healthy child I suppose. A child with a well-balanced sense of right and wrong, the ability to care, commit, engage and admit when they are wrong, and an understanding of reasonable boundaries for starters. These seem fitting attributes for one charged with the making of a new world. Where will this metaphorical child look for cues?
Caregivers/parents set the tone for every coming act on the global stage. Every parental behavior, no matter how small creates a butterfly effect that sends ripples through yet unwritten history. Therefore our responsibility as adults is not merely to our children but to an entire generation and the generations which they, in turn, will bring to pass. Our responsibility that is, if we have a legitimate interest in our legacy; our gift, or blight on the years to come.
“Respect your elders.” The popular expression makes my stomach turn. While I do believe respect is an important lesson I do not believe it can be instilled in a ‘one-way street’ fashion. In my experience, children learn far more from our actions than our ‘teachings.’ If we treat a child with respect, they come to understand it’s true nature, and more importantly its value. Seeing is believing.
“Do as I say, not as I do,” another gem. While listeners are sometimes hard to come by, mimics abound in the realm of childhood. The essence of a healthy future is founded on the understanding that “do as I do” is the curriculum far more likely to take hold.
Leading by example then is the forge on which tomorrow is wrought. What imperative does that place on this generation of caregivers? Will we pass on that which we learned as children? Were those lessons ideal? Are they all we have, the best we can do? Will we even know we are repeating the sins of the father or mother upon the son or daughter? Handing the wheel to the platitude “When I was a kid…” isn’t necessarily good enough is it? If it were, the psychotherapeutic business would not be enjoying its meteoric and seemingly endless growth trajectory.
Self-respect starts at home, as does healthy self-appreciation. These positive self-image elements spread like ‘good weeds’ from those who possess them. If as a child you were deprived of the installation of these qualities the accession from childhood to the role of parenting provides an opportunity to break the cycle, glitch the matrix, to rewrite the future. It takes effort, focus and commitment to step outside the negative experiences that shaped our collective past, but on the wings of counting to ten and choosing to be active rather than reactive it is the path to a legacy we can be proud of.
Remembering what it was like to be a child, the newness of the world in the absence of experience and accumulated wisdom is the bridge that allows for patience and the acceptance of childish behavior. How the hell else are they supposed to act for god’s sake? I submit that the showing of respect, the looking for the positive and offering affirmation, setting clear, reasonable boundaries, the giving of hugs and speaking the words “I love you” as often as humanly possible are the keys to achieving the sacred mandate of raising of a healthy world.