When our children are born there are certain things that we hope for them — that they will be well-adjusted, have successful and fulfilling careers and fall in love with someone they can share their lives with.
Another important hope — that our children will be kind and thoughtful human beings. For a while, that doesn’t seem remotely possible. Children are inherently selfish and self-absorbed and they have to be taught repeatedly to think of others or to share things that are precious to them. It’s one of the toughest parts of parenting.
That’s why what happened at my son’s elementary school last month made my wife and I want to take a victory lap. Our oldest son, 5, was named Kid of Character for the month for exhibiting the trait of kindness. What a lovely and wonderful honor! And it was well-deserved. We’re told that he helped a fellow kindergartner who had fallen on the playground, among other things.
Despite our son’s selfish proclivities he has always shown a thoughtfulness toward others. This is a child who, at 4 years old, cried at the end of “Monsters Inc.” when Sully says goodbye to Boo. This is a child who refuses to hit his little brother despite being attacked because “I don’t want him to cry.” In other words, my son has a big heart.
Still, it gave my wife and I — and him — enormous pride to receive an award on the school tv channel, shake the principal’s hand and participate in a small ceremony with his fellow honorees. I thought to myself, if a school wants to encourage this type of behavior what better way to do it than to make a big deal about it and inspire other students to similar action. It meant so much to him that he took his certificate with him on Christmas vacation to the Northeast to share with his extended family. Hopefully, it will be a moment that he will carry with him and help define his future behavior.
For sure, he came off the assembly line as a caring child and my wife and I don’t have any secrets to raising a kid of character. In fact, it’s hard to imagine we know anything about parenting when you see our kids whine about not getting enough toys for Christmas or biting each other. But my wife and I do work hard to instill in our children an altruistic mindset. We remind them often of the importance of helping others, pitching in for the good of the team and thinking of how their actions affect others.
It seems that our work has started to pay off and it’s gratifying to see our oldest recognized for it. We can only hope it continues.