I remember Sidney, a girl in my fourth-grade class. Taller than most girls our age, with a large nose and extremely thin hair, she stood out. She walked around constantly glaring. People avoided her, including me. One day, when I accidentally bumped into her at the drinking fountain, she lashed out. “What is wrong with you? Clean your glasses so you can see where you’re going!” To say I was embarrassed is an understatement. “Don’t worry about it,” my friends said. “She’s weird, mean, and ugly! I heard she pulls out her own hair—that’s why it looks like that!” And somehow, agreeing with all of this made me feel better. The rumor about pulling out her hair started to spread, and I helped.
A few years later, we learned there was more to Sidney’s story. She struggled with anxiety and had an unstable home life. She also had a skin disease that caused her hair to fall out. I was suddenly filled with compassion for her, as well as guilt. Later in high school, we discovered that Sidney could be a really nice person if you got to know her. She was witty, funny, and extremely artistic. I still think about Sidney when I’m tempted to complain about people. I want to teach my kids to see the good in others—even when it’s easier to see the worst. I hope you feel the same. Here are 5 practical ways to do that.
1. “I bet… I wonder…”
It’s really easy to get mad at people and assume the worst. Instead, be gracious and give the benefit of the doubt. See someone weaving in and out of traffic on the highway? Try the “I bet… I wonder…” technique. It works like this: “I bet that person is late for his sister’s wedding,” or “I wonder if she’s about to have a baby.” Is it a stretch? Maybe. But maybe not. The point is to teach your kids that there might be good reasons for other people’s actions.
2. “But we don’t know if that’s true.”
You can’t see the best in people if you are too busy perpetuating rumors. Rumors not only highlight the worst, but they support whatever might not be true or what is largely exaggerated. Instead, try this statement to stop gossip from gaining ground.
3. “I’ve done that before.”
If we can humble ourselves enough to be totally honest, we can usually think of similar situations when we were not at our best either. When others are highlighting the worst in someone, try this statement on for size: “Let’s be real. I’ve done that before.” Admitting it will go a long way.
4. “I like (person’s name) because he’s so ___.”
Seeing the best in people is really about creating a habit of looking for it, and then being humble and brave enough to say it out loud. Force yourself to look for one positive thing about the person you want so badly to complain about. Doing this will begin to diminish the glaring negatives.
Seeing the best in people is really about creating a habit of looking for it, and then being humble and brave enough to say it out loud.
5. Model it.
Let’s be honest. As parents, we can talk the talk all day long. But don’t just tell your kids how to see the best in people; do it yourself. See the best when others see the worst. Do it even when the other person has offended you. It won’t be perfect but it’s the most effective way to teach your kids.
How do you teach your kids to see the good in others?