I work with kids everyday. So I can say this with great confidence, there is good in every child, and therefore there is good in every person. Oftentimes, it is more visible in kids because life has not taught them the same lessons that it has adults. They have not put on the same level of armor or built their walls high enough to keep us from seeing their pure goodness.
Their innocence will shine through the cracks of their ever developing belief systems to expose their disbelief of injustice and hate.
Their innocence will shine through the cracks of their ever developing belief systems to expose their disbelief of injustice and hate. They will wonder aloud with us about the sides of an argument without the fear that their thoughts and ultimately, they themselves, will be judged. They have not yet realized that in the world we live in, someday they will feel forced to choose a side, and that good people will be staring back at them from the opposite side.
They won’t realize that the people on the otherside are good, because by then, the people on both sides will have put on their complete armor and built walls high enough to protect the vulnerabilities that hide underneath it all. They will view the other side of the argument as the enemy and therefore they will seek to destroy their credibility which unfortunately, at times, means an attack on the other person’s character.
I work with kids because they bring me joy. They remind me of the good. I get to step into their world daily. A world where I don’t have to choose a side. I can hold space in the middle with them while seeking to understand issues more deeply. In their world, it is safe to ask questions and listen to the answers without forming a rebuttal. There is a basic understanding and acceptance of right and wrong and the “I don’t know yets” in between.
There is no lasting judgement that they hold towards each other because they understand that they don’t understand it all. In their world, it is ok not to know it all. You don’t have to pick a side until you are ready, and even then, you can choose to see and appreciate the other side. It is ok to believe differently and to coexist within the same environment. They are open to learning how to challenge each other respectfully. They understand that the loudest voice is not always the one they should be listening to. They are developing their voices alongside each other. Voices that they somehow, as kids, understand will come together to form beautiful music. They have grasped the concept of harmonizing. Knowing that without the harmony, the melody is just a string of notes. It is their differences that make them dynamic and create depth within them. In their world, it is safe to be seen as the person one is becoming.
Soon enough, they will step into what we like to call “the real world”. But the belief that fuels my passion is that I am preparing kids for a world that doesn’t exist yet. That the advances we make will not be limited to technology or academia, but will also include advances in humanity. I invest in the future everyday with the hope that the next generation will learn from our mistakes. They will never stop listening to and learning from each other. That their vulnerability to be human will become their superpower and their guiding principle. They will use their collective fear of failure, being misunderstood, not belonging, not mattering to launch them into a future where those fears are their collective motivators, rather than their reason for distrust and discourse.
Invest in your children. Remind them that they are beautifully and wonderfully made. That they are human and will make mistakes and wish for do overs, but that they will always have a place to belong. Give them a safety net to fail and still be good enough. Allow them to explore their beliefs. Give them confidence in their decision making by allowing them to make their own decisions (with some guidance).
Celebrate their success, but do not allow it to determine your worthiness as a parent, or they may also learn to determine their worthiness based upon their success. Acknowledge and guide them through their failures, but do not own their failure as your own. Allowing them to take accountability for their own successes and failures will give them the confidence they need to be responsible for their actions. Removing yourself from the accountability piece will give you the emotional stability to be their support system.
With confidence comes an ability to express oneself without being defensive or derogatory towards others. The confidence you have in your kids will teach them to trust themselves and their instincts. Their confidence in who they are and what they believe will allow them to stand up for what is right in a way that makes people want to watch and listen.
Do not rescue them too quickly from the uncomfortable emotions that make us human. They need to learn how to feel those too. These emotions will stretch them and grow them into the kind of people that are not afraid to take chances. They will be the kind of people that can put themselves out there and risk someone criticizing them because they know at the end of the day failure is not final and it does not define who they are. The emotions are temporary and it will be up to them to decide how to use them.
Watch your kids. They will teach you a lot about humanity. You will see the best of it through them and you will see the worst of it with them. Unfortunately, we live in a time in which we cannot completely protect them from the ugliness of the world. What we can do, is prepare them to be a part of a better world. Build up kids that have confidence in the importance of their existence. Raise a generation that knows they matter. A generation that can see the human on the other side of every issue and act accordingly.
Be careful not to extinguish the magic innocence in kids in an effort to prepare them for the “real world”. Instead, look for the good in them, grow it, and show them how to use it in a world that they can make better. When they believe the good inside of them can change the world, they will not be threatened by the good in others. They will be inspired by it.
There is good in each one of us, if only we will take the time to look.