By Sarah Shapiro, LCSW-C
In this era of nasty and even crude election rhetoric, road rage, and rude customer service agents, many parents are left to wonder how their children will ever learn to value civility. Built upon the premise that all human beings are created equal, civility obligates us to treat others with decency and respect, no matter our differences. In a civil society, people are able to put the interests of the common good above their own, working together for the betterment of the community. Conversely, incivility leads to violence, bullying, gridlock and communities in decline.
Clearly, teaching civility in today’s environment can often feel like an uphill battle. But that does not mean it is an unworthy or unproductive battle. Though the media may be surrounding us with examples of incivility, fortunately, our children are most influenced by the example of those closest to them. So what can you do to help ensure that your children and all of the young people in your life learn to treat others with dignity and respect?
- Teach by example – treat your own children with respect, always be respectful of others (even when you disagree), and model acceptance of those who are culturally or physically different from you.
- Praise the positive – acknowledge when your children are treating others with kindness. Children love it when you catch them being good.
- Use teachable moments – look for times when you see people (e.g., friends, politicians, or TV characters) using respectful or disrespectful behavior or language and discuss these situations with your children. Help them to identify when a situation was handled well or how it could have been addressed differently.
- Teach children how to respectfully disagree – help them first to listen calmly and try to really understand the other’s viewpoint then share their concerns in a healthy manner, making sure to challenge another’s thoughts and beliefs without attacking the other personally.
- Help children learn the art of compromise – while we want our children to stand up for principles they believe in, they also need to learn that it is okay to compromise to help our households and communities live and progress in harmony.
- Demonstrate the art of apologizing – acknowledge your mistakes out loud and engage in conversation about how you might have done better. Let children know that there are also times when they might want to say “I’m sorry that happened” if they know another’s feelings have been hurt, even if they don’t feel personally responsible.
- Expect civility – let your children know that despite the times in which we live, you remain committed to civility as a crucial element of a healthy society and expect them to join you in living this value daily.
So while the rancor of the current election season isn’t likely to ease up anytime soon, perhaps each of us can work hard to create a sense of civility within our own families and communities.
By Sarah Shapiro, LCSW-C, JCS School Consultant
Because parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual, JCS offers a variety of programs, services, education and support for parents and families with children of all ages. Click here or call 410-466-9200 to learn more.