Unsurprisingly, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to teach lessons to kids, as well as how this ties in to societal norms, shame, and stigma. Let me explain . . .
Just looking at the data, the best way to stay out poverty is to get an education, not bear or sire children out of wedlock, get married, and stay married. People who do that are much less likely to live below the poverty line; children raised in such situations are more likely to do well. (I’ve read this in enough places that I’m stating this as fact; however, if you really want me to dig up the studies, I can do that. Also, this is NOT a knock on my single readers; I’m speaking in broad generalities. My friends who happen to be single are doing just fine, thanks.) Furthermore, it is detrimental to one’s health to be obese. While I don’t buy the “OBESITY IS GONNA KILL US ALL ZOMG!!” stuff, kids who are overweight will suffer both health consequences and social/professional knocks.
So. I want my kid to believe that such behaviors – dropping out of school, having babies out of wedlock, being unhealthily overweight, etc. etc. – are bad and to be avoided.
BUT . . . I *also* don’t want my kid judging people who *do* reflect such behaviors (are obese, have a child but no husband, etc.) as *bad people.* It’s generally a waste of time to judge strangers anyway, and it’s impossible to know what factors played into their decisions. (Can YOU tell by looking whether that’s a single mother whose kid never knew its father, or whether it’s a widowed army wife? I can’t.)
I want my kid to grow up with a good sense of what’s healthy and what’s not, what will better lead to life success and what will make success more difficult, while still being compassionate and not overly judgmental.
On the face of it, it seems an impossible task.
The only thing that I can think of is to teach to the positive, not the negative. To try to reflect as many healthy behaviors in my own life as I can (while knowing dam’ well I’ll never be perfect person, let alone a perfect parent). To point out good role models (relatives, athletes, fictional and nonfictional heroes, etc.) while not pointing out seemingly *bad* role models that we pass on the street.
What do you think? Parents, how have you handled this with your kids? Whether you have kids or not, do you think this approach makes sense? What can be added?
P.S. Stay tuned for the “Manifesto of a n00b parent”, coming soon!