I’d had enough. My son had gotten in a very bad habit of picking on his sister. “You’re annoying,” he said after she playfully teased him. “Why does your voice squeak?” He interrupted as she was telling a story. “You’re slow at everything,” he told her as he breezed through his chores.
His words were unkind and his tone had a mean edge. “You’re a good boy,” I said, “and you have a good heart, but you cannot be mean to your sister.”
Of course, I know that siblings will be unkind to each other, but it should be the exception, not the rule. And I’ll never stop teaching my children how to be kind. Here are the seven things I never want my children to do.
1. Make fun of someone’s appearance.
It’s easy to joke about the way someone looks, but it’s unkind. People are way more than the sum of their outward parts. If getting a potential laugh comes at the expense of a person’s appearance, choose kindness instead.
It’s easy to joke about the way someone looks, but it’s unkind. People are way more than the sum of their outward parts.
2. Tease someone about the way they speak, move, or act.
My son has a boy at his school who has Tourette’s syndrome, so he has a difficult time controlling his physical tics. I have told my son I am proud of him for not making fun of this child, and explained to him that we must treat those with physical or mental challenges respectfully.
It’s not okay to cheat in school. It’s not okay to cheat in sports. It’s not okay to cheat to get ahead. Period. (Here are some ideas for how to teach your child to be honest.)
4. Use physical force other than in self-defense.
I try to teach my children that they must exercise self-control over their actions. Yes, they will get angry at others, at themselves, or at life when things don’t go as they had hoped. They must never, I tell them, express their anger or make a point by getting physical. Never.
5. Act disrespectfully toward authority.
“You can disagree with me,” I tell my children, “but you must do so respectfully.” At home, and in life, my children must listen to higher authorities. That doesn’t mean their opinions and beliefs lack value, it just means that in the hierarchy of life those in authority are due respect. That includes parents, teachers, coaches, and bosses.
6. Act wasteful and entitled.
I want my children to treat their own property, and the property of others with respect. As they get older, I want them to help pay to replace items they lose habitually or treat cavalierly. Have you ever seen this sign posted as you enter a store, “You break it, you buy it”? That’s the message I want my children to internalize.
7. Do illegal activities.
My children will get to choose whether or not to drink when they reach 21. Before then, it’s illegal. Same with doing illegal drugs or breaking the law while driving.
What do you expect your children to never do?