Teaching Our Children Good vs. Bad – Regardless of Who You’re Voting For
My kids are old enough to know that the world is in chaos. Between COVID-19 and the current political climate, our stress and our opinions trickle down to our kids. While our kids may be old enough to understand some or most of what is going on, their brains are not fully developed… and won’t be until they are 26.
Even teens have trouble processing information, deciphering news, and handling conflict.
No matter who you are voting for, you probably feel passionately and have strong feelings and opinions. Our kids are like little sponges, and no matter how hard we try to protect them from our stress and opinions, they still soak up little bits here and there.
So, what do we do to help our kids process these adult issues, feelings and opinions?
I recently read about Good vs. Bad. It was a simple yet mind-opening explanation. First, before I share my take on how to decipher good vs. bad, I must explain the purpose of this article.
The purpose of this article is to help our kids live happier, healthier, more connected lives, through deeper understanding of the world they live in… without scaring them.
My eldest daughter will turn 10 a few days after the election, and already she’s come home with “hair on fire” news from her friends that scares her and keeps her up at night.
COVID is coming back and it’s worse than before.
My friend’s grandpa died alone.
Biden/Trump are “bad guys”.
You are white, so you are racist!
My friend hopes Trump dies from COVID.
The cities are burning.
People with guns are murderers.
Kids typically boil information down into the easiest to understand soundbite, and many times the last thing they hear is what they remember the most.
The first thing I teach my kids is that everyone has their own perspective that is uniquely created by the life they live, the parents and family they have, the home they live in, and many other factors.
Our unique perspective is a beautiful thing, and will help us learn and grow as we ask open and honest questions from others, and listen to their unique perspective without judgement or shame.
We use our perspective to shape our decisions, both good & bad. And we can deepen our relationships by trying on other people’s perspectives, to see if their perspectives feel good.
Patience + Trust + Love = NO Fear + NO HATE
The second thing I teach them is Good vs. Bad. My middle daughter asked me recently, “is it sometimes good to kill people?”… after I recovered from the shock of the question (coming from a 7 year old), I tried explaining what I had just read.
“No it is never okay to kill people.”
And before I got further into my explanation, she interrupted and said, “well, what if someone is trying to kill you? Can you kill them first?”… tough question!
I answered her question with a question: “Do you think it is okay to kill someone?”, to which she quickly replied, “NO!”.
“Why is it not okay to kill people?”….
“Because it’s the law and it’s bad”.
“Okay, but WHY is it bad?”…
“I don’t know.”
So we got into the crux of the Good vs. Bad conversation.
“Shay, you can tell if something is BAD, if everyone did it and it had a negative impact on our world. If everyone killed people, would that have a positive or negative impact on our world?”.
“Very negative and very bad.”
“Let’s choose something else. Like bullying. If everyone bullied each other would it have a positive or negative effect?”
“Very negative and very bad.”
“Yes, so that’s how you know what is bad. Now let’s think of something good. What about kindness? If everyone was kind, would that have a positive or a negative effect?”
“That would be good! Super positive!”
“Yes, it would be awesome. Let’s think of another good thing… generous. If we were all generous with each other, and focused on giving MORE and taking LESS… would that have a positive or negative effect on our world?”
She thought for a moment. Then said, “well, I love to get presents and nice things, but I also love to give presents and make things that make people happy… so I think it would be very positive if we were all generous.”
“Well said! So now you know how to figure out if something is good or bad. To get back to your question, sometimes you have to do a bad thing for a good reason. Like protecting yourself from harm. But let’s stay positive and stay away from dangerous people who may want to hurt us. Okay?”
We lingered for a few minutes talking about other things, and went through examples of how people are both good and bad.
I think she realized why actions are good & bad, and can better parse through those “hair on fire” comments and opinions with her new deciphering tools. She also seemed calmed by the realization that her perspective is never wrong… it is beautifully unique, and that the perspective of her friends was worth “trying on” as long as it wasn’t “bad”.
As the new “teacher” of my children (1st, 3rd and 4th grades), I’ve tried to practice what I preach to – and sometimes yell at – my kids. Patience. Love. Trust… and most importantly, trying on their perspectives and staying present with them.
It’s not always easy, and I fail often, but seeing the BIG difference those small changes in my behavior makes for them, makes it all worth it.
I hope this is helpful to you as we navigate these tense and uncertain times.
Sending you love!