What do you want for your children?
Parents everywhere want health, happiness, and safety. We want independence and tenacity and grit. We want joy and curiosity and education. Or maybe today you want an earlier bedtime, or five minutes without questions or a snack request. Parents all want these things (including more sleep) but we all want something else, too; something harder to distill into words, but nonetheless we want it: an empathetic and loving world to thrust our children into when they are grown.
How do we ensure this? And can we? How do we raise children people want to spend time with – children who are and remain kind, loving adults who do good for the world? Countless words have been devoted to exploring whether empathy and team spirit can be taught, and my completely unprofessional opinion is yes; yes they can. A child could learn to skate only by watching others skate. And granted, observation goes a long way towards skill development. But what of the lost nuances? Lacing up and taking to the ice with your child will have them shooting pucks in a net faster than simply leaving them at the arena while you sit in your car, waiting for the buzzer. Add some friends in a can-do spirit of camaraderie and support when you hit the rink or pond and you only increase the speed of trajectory to success. This is teamwork. And the cumulative power of a group with a common goal should never be underestimated.
Modeling positive behavior is not always easy, and I could recount for you several (hundred) times when I was a less-than-stellar parent. A particular mid-aisle department store mom meltdown comes to mind, but what’s done is done. (My defense is this: the school supplies aisle is no place for a hungry mom and tired children one day before school starts. It’s like the Bermuda triangle of potential parenting nightmare.) But when I can, I give my children unfettered full view of my best. I tell them why we are shoveling our elderly neighbours driveway =I ask them to select from a list of charities to determine who gets our donation of culled household items and books; and I include them in choosing how we will spend donation money, incorporating chat about what each group does with the money to further its goal. I show them teamwork in action, and I pepper conversation about working together to spread good often. (Full disclosure: I have been known to work this angle to less than honorable means if it results in the pair of them cleaning the kitchen.)
Children can be naturally self-centered for many (oh so many) of their waking hours. It’s normal. It’s biology. It is not something in them which needs to be broken. It makes sense: the non-verbal crying baby gets fed, the clingy orangutan doesn’t get separated from mama, and the pushy toddler gets the first fistful of crackers. But while our children are amazing creatures who’ve come to us in the form of a helpless child, it is not a helpless child we one day need to turn over to an often harsh world: it is an adult who must navigate that plane. The world is not tolerant of selfish adults, we can never lose sight of that reality. Although your child’s sweet head smells of warm apple juice and sunshine today, and adulthood seems forever away, sadly it is not. This is a future adult person you have been tasked with guiding. Whether or not that adult does good for self and others will go a long way towards the degree of happiness they experience.
Childhood is short. It is a low, warm breeze, crossing your face with a tickle, seemingly forever in duration but merely a flash in recollection. It is to be savoured, for it is fleeting. It is a whirl of spilled juice, hockey and ballet practices, homework struggles, drying tears and hard nights. It is difficult and incredible and frustrating and enthralling and it is here one minute and the next it is gone. We must grab and hold tight to every opportunity for teaching, and when we are thinking of the world we wish for our children – and the children we wish for our world – we should constantly reinforce the ideal that teamwork isn’t something to be left on a player’s bench to be picked up again at next week’s practice. Teamwork and doing good is an everyday attitude.
We have largely created the world our children live in, and well, we haven’t always done a great job. We have some problems to take care of and we’re going to have to work together to make it better – but the good news is that we can and we will and we are. By reinforcing concepts like mobilizing teams to do good, we build children with agency and confidence to enact change and thereby increase community happiness – and as part of those communities, they fully deserve a part in creating that reality.
There are some amazing programs that help parents and their kids spread joy in the word by doing good deeds. Our partner Chevrolet Canada has the #GoodDeedsCup program for PeeWee Hockey kids and their parents here in Canada, and we encourage you to participate with your hockey family – or please share this post with a hockey family you know. (This being Canada, you won’t have to search long!)
The Good Deeds Cup encourages good sportsmanship and teamwork on and off the ice and promotes the wonderful message that teams can enact good in the communities by leveraging their amazing can-do team spirit. There are some sweet rewards, too – beside all the warm fuzzies of knowing you’re raising great kid, you can win prizes and national recognition. We invite you to check out the contest details here – you’ve got until December 31, 2017 to submit!