If you just read the title and thought, “Part 2? When was there a part 1?” Then you’ll want to read the first post in this series before you scroll through this one. Tensions are high in America…whether it’s the pandemic, isolation setting in, fear taking over our lives, or a plethora of other reasons, there’s a whole lot to sift through these days.
Agree to Disagree
Now, I’m going to call out the elephant in the room. Social media has been a huge factor in the divisiveness in our country. Things you’d never say to someone’s face are put on social media. Politically charged topics are discussed online but you’d never have that same conversation at the water cooler in the office, or at school pick up. Even if you were to discuss these topics, they’d be without the language, contempt, and anger seen on social media.
There is a massive lack of respect for others across social media. If someone disagrees with you, there’s no longer an attempt at a calm discussion and an “agree to disagree” mentality. You simply hide, unfriend, or block that relationship. This teaches us that the only people you need to interact with are those who agree with you. Which is nothing like real life.
I’m not pointing fingers, I’m in this boat, too. I get super annoyed when people get on their soapboxes and tell me what I’m supposed to think about an issue. I’ve hidden people who only talk about political issues and deleted vulgar comments from my own posts. I’ve stewed about someone else’s post before, creatively drafting a clever response in my head all day long. Anyone else?
All of this makes my point – we can’t disagree politely anymore. We have to forcibly, angrily, and cruelly make others agree with us.
Moms Can Fix This
As I said in Part 1, changing this dialogue starts at home. Moms are the nurturers of the family. No matter if you work, stay-at-home, or some variety of the two, you’re likely the one the kids run to when they need help. Let’s help America heal through the way we raise up future generations.
By letting our children feel safe at home, free to express their own feelings, and teaching them some very crucial life skills, we can change the narrative for the better. Below are a few crucial life skills that are lacking in a lot of kids today. If your child is about to leave the house, it’s not too late to instill these skills in them. If your child is younger, then start today and by the time they head out on their own, they’ll be equipped to handle more of what life throws at them.
Teach them to ask good questions
Kids are taught from a young age that they shouldn’t question authority or things their friends say. This is odd, because when they’re three and four years old, all they do is ask, “Why?” all day long. Then school comes along, and whatever the teacher says is supreme. By the time they get to high school, they’ll accept anything anyone says as truth.
Let’s change that. Teach your kids to ask good questions. When they come home telling you about their day, respond with, “Why is that, do you think?” Or if they’re taught something in school, you can ask, “Why do you think that happened that way?” or even, “What would you have done in that situation?”
By consistently posing questions to them, they’ll get more used to someone questioning what they think, be better able to respond with the why and in turn, be more comfortable doing the same to someone else. Somewhere along the way through childhood, kids pick up that questioning someone’s reasoning is rude, but it isn’t that at all; it’s a search for greater understanding.
If we seek to understand the why behind the way someone feels, thinks, or acts, then we may gain a greater knowledge of where they’re coming from and who they are. That leads to common ground, respect, and true acceptance.
No one wants their kid to grow up to be a robot. We all want to raise adults able to think for themselves and make good decisions. That result comes from years of teaching them to question the way things are. If our goal is living in harmony with people who are different than us, we must build a better future by gaining knowledge of why things are contrary to our version of normal.
Read through history with your kids and ask yourself these same questions. Perhaps you yourself were fed a false story of events in the past. Sit with your kids and walk through some great books. Some of my favorites are American History: A Visual Encyclopedia (for older kids), and the First Encyclopedia of History (for younger kids). If you want to go a little deeper, The Story of the World book series is fantastic for late elementary school all the way through high school. It’s written like a novel but has all the content of a textbook. My kids enjoyed reading it multiple times, which says something since it was their history textbook!
Teaching your kids to wonder ‘why’ extends beyond the classroom, also. When you’re driving around and they notice something different, ask them why that might be that way, or what they think about that situation/building/setup/etc. Education happens everywhere and by building commonalities with people who are different, we foster true community.
Kids are comfortable with what they know and they have long memories. My kids remember all kinds of stuff from long ago, for better or worse. By exposing them to a wide variety of people, situations, cultures, and environments, they feel more comfortable with those situations, leading to a greater understanding and empathy for others.
I’m not asking you to give up your Saturdays to serve food at the local shelter. But maybe once a year you could help out doing it. Or you could sort donated items at your local thrift store once or twice. Pick up litter on the side of the road here and there. Maybe you help at an animal shelter or the library.
A great thing might be to do a “cause of the year” and that’s where you focus your volunteer time for a 12 month time frame. Every December, as a family, choose the charity for the next year. Then decide how much time you want to devote to it, depending on various commitments. Maybe it’s just once a quarter, or even just one full day as a family. Volunteering shouldn’t be a burden. If it feels that way, then decrease the amount of time you’re spending on it. It should bring you joy and fill up your cup.
There is real value in volunteering your time, rather than just donating money. Your time is, quite honestly, your most precious commodity. It’s limited and we all only get so much of it. So by giving up your time to help others, it’s a real sacrifice, which demonstrates how important something is.
Show your kids that helping other people, animals, our habitats, is worth the time. They’ll earn respect for the causes you help and gain true understanding that will stick with them for a lifetime.
Agree on the problem
A great saying to teach your kids, which hopefully will then spread to the people they’re interacting with, is that it’s okay to agree on the problem and disagree on the solution.
They can say this in a wide variety of situations – at work when they’re adults, with relationships, in a political disagreement, with a teacher at school, even in deciding what game to play with friends. Heck, you can use this in marriage and friendships, moms. Give it a shot next time you fight with your husband.
It really is okay to agree on the problem but disagree on the solution. At least, it should be okay, and unless we raise up kids who believe it to be true, this “my way or no way” mentality we see in our culture dialogue will never change.
Agreeing on the problem is a great way to diffuse any tension, show that you understand the other person’s feelings, and build common ground. Disagreeing on the solution shows that you have your own opinion about something and that you believe that there are at least two ways to solve a problem – which is true! Unless you’re solving a math equation, there are always a variety of points of view, methods to resolution, and paths to peace.
Knowledge is power
To bring about real, lasting change in our country, it starts with learning. Parents need to take the lead on this. Without knowledge, you can’t form an opinion, speak your mind, or agree to disagree. Neither can your kids.
Set the example for them by reading news, science, history, or anything that interests you, and then talk about it with your kids. Ask them what they think about it and why. Value their opinion even if it’s different from yours. Model at home what you want them to see in the world…love, acceptance of differences, and respect.