MAMMA’S DIARY – DIARIO DI MAMMA
My biggest challenge as a mother is to teach my son to be a good person. I look around me, and I see cheaters and liars running the world, bullies running the Internet, and soul-sucking institutions paying lip service to good behavior but demonstrating something else entirely. The hypocrisy is maddening. And it weighs on my heart. I don’t know how to save this sweet boy’s kindness for posterity.
But does it really have to be this complicated? Being a good person is simple when you think about it. You just have to do the right thing and black out the badness in the outer world. Etch what you believe on your kids’ hearts before you set them out into the world to face the wolves. The journey begins with you and the behavior you model. Discover how to be a good person in practice, not just in name:
Follow the Golden Rule
The Golden Rule has people treating others the way they would like to be treated. I think of it as the simplest explanation of how to show respect for those around you. If you don’t want someone calling you names, you don’t call him names. This rule expresses the very thing I am seeking to do – model the right kind of behavior.
Help Those in Need
My son had delayed speech as many of you know. He goes to school with other children, who have all sorts of delays and abilities. Some of them have a harder time than others at school. So, once my son started speaking and seemed to be understanding me, we talked about what to do if one of his friends is crying or does not want to participate. Lo and behold, his speech therapist introduced similar discussion in some of her lessons, too. My son got the message because when a boy, who didn’t yet speak, cried hysterically on his first day of school, I watched my son hand him a pinecone he found on the ground and give him a hug. The boy stopped crying. Now, my son says you have to give someone a pinecone when he’s crying. Sounds good to me.
To Be a Good Person, Have a Good Heart
This tip is a bit more opaque than the others. Sometimes, we let anger fester, and it can bring us down. It colors how we see the world until all we see is gray. We lose optimism and experience paranoia. We become grouches. And we treat others poorly – or ignore them all together – with the excuse that the world is a miserable place. Becoming an angry bird in the face of opposition is not the answer. You have to make the effort to seek out the good among the bad, so that your heart remains. This is a much harder lesson to teach. The good news is that kids bounce back from hardship more easily than grown ups, and they have an unmatched innocence. So, it’s easier to keep their heart in check.
Love Your Neighbor
I hate to borrow from the 10 Commandments because being a good person should not have to be a religious pursuit. But this one is important. Many of us don’t even know our neighbors anymore. It’s amazing really. Much of today’s technology was meant to help people connect with those near and far with ease, and yet it has driven us further apart. You don’t have to be best friends with your neighbors but say, “Hi,” to them when you see them. Learn their names. Ask them how they are doing. Of course, respect their property. Talking to people promotes understanding and creates a sense of community. When you’re part of a community, you want to contribute to it.
Suffer A Little
You’re probably thinking this sounds out of sorts on this list. But many parents rush to solve every little problem their child faces. They never allow them to cry or experience a challenge. Believe me, I know how tough it is to watch your child suffer; my first instinct is always to run to his aid. But it does more harm than good. It’s a shot in the arm for the moment at hand. But later on, what will he do in the face of real adversity? When children grow up unable to cope with the hard times, they come to feel entitled to perfection, which of course does not exist. They may come to be arrogant or have unreal expectations about the relationships they have with real people. When you suffer a little, you become more empathetic to those around you, and you have a grasp on how to deal with those sour lemons that come your way.
Tell people the truth. Be transparent and open. When you have nothing to hide, you are more relaxed and more receptive to those around you. Honesty also helps your kids know where you stand, and they might be more likely to shun lying to you. If you’re never caught in a lie and show up when you say you will, you also will build trust, which is a great foundation for any relationship.
Work hard at whatever you do. Persevere. Pay your taxes. Volunteer for causes about which you care. Do right by your family. Spread the love. Be a responsible adult in your community, and your child will see what it means to give back and help the whole village grow. Granted, these lessons won’t be understood overnight. But being a good person takes a lifetime of effort, so you have plenty of time.
We stop hugging our children, especially our sons, after they grow up just a little bit. But we should hug them well into adulthood. Hugs are soothing, they bring everyone a little peace, and they have the power to make time stand still even if it’s just for a few seconds. Hugs are a way to demonstrate love. And love breeds love.
Di Meglio has written the Our Paesani column for ItaliansRus.com since 2003. You can follow the Italian Mamma on Facebook or Twitter @ItalianMamma10. For more handmade crafts and party gear, visit the Italian Mamma store on Etsy.