Are we raising good people is the real question we should be asking ourselves. Are we as parents setting the right examples? And what makes a person good anyway?
My friend's child does well in school, is on the honor roll—on her way to being accepted to a top school with an academic scholarship—but she likes to smoke pot occasionally, so is she still good? Or what about my cousin's son: He’s a straight-A student and calls when he's going to be late, but he litters and doesn't care so much about recycling. Is he now a bad kid?
I think one of the toughest and most valuable lessons we can teach our kids is being aware—of self and beyond. I’ve grown very fond of using the Butterfly Effect as a descriptive for more clarity. The sooner they learn that it’s not always just about them, the better. I admit it: I’m a late bloomer when it comes to my own clarity, and I’m still learning what it means for myself, even now in my 40s. But my hope remains that if my kids get a jump on knowing what it means to be conscious of their actions at all times, perhaps by the time they reach their 40s they’ll have made a difference somehow, in some way, and been a part of the solution.
Waste and excess are sadly a huge part of today’s societal “norm.” The cases of bottled water that more people than ever seem to still be buying (amazingly) and storing in their pantries and garages—convenient as they are, especially after a kid has spent the day riding, or swimming, or even just hanging around—is but one example of both. But unless we tell them otherwise, our kids will only know it to be that: convenient and easy. I fully disclose that there was a time when I was guilty of partaking in this same indulgence, only somewhat aware of what I was truly contributing to.
I have since banned any plastic from our home. I’ve disclosed the whole dirty truth of it—that all of those bottles (and other plastic materials) add to the 50-year-old floating garbage barge that is twice the size of the United States in the Pacific Ocean. It floats under the surface and can’t be seen by satellite. It pollutes our waters, contaminates our fish, and is the cause of death for millions of seabirds a year, and more than 100,000 marine mammal fatalities.
I realize ours are only small footprints we’re leaving compared with those of big business, and maybe this is too big-picture to instill in every developing mind, but being aware is really where it all begins. But back to what “good” means. According to my friend Merriam-Webster, the definition of good is: of a favorable character or tendency.
Are we talking to our kids about what a favorable character is, or even what that means? If not, we should be.