An Open Letter from a Parent
Whenever I read your literature about valuing character development, I think, Yes, Im the type of mother who is always telling her children how kindness and friendliness are more important than algebra and chemistry. But, a few days ago when my 9th grade daughter brought home her report card, mostly Cs with a few Bs, I was frankly irked. I myself was a straight A student. I felt like grounding my daughter, or at least giving her a good scolding.
Then, as I reinserted her report card into its envelope, I noticed something else in the envelope. I pulled it out and found a facsimile of a report card with these words superimposed over its face:
I was grateful to whomever it was in the school administration who had the brainstorm to insert that reminder to give priority to values above academic accomplishment (although the two certainly dont have to be mutually exclusive!). Wouldnt it be a great idea for other schools to emulate?
Of course, the onus for emphasizing values lies with us parents more than the school system. This point was driven home to me yesterday. Ronnie, my eight-year-old son, went outside with his ball to find his best friend. As he was scanning the neighborhood, he ran into a boy with Down Syndrome, Sean, who lives on the next block. Sean asked Ronnie to play ball with him.
Now, Sean is just a year younger than Ronnie, but Ronnie had never played with him. As Ronnie explained it to me, he had nothing against Sean, but he was afraid that if he was seen playing with Sean, the other neighborhood kids would make fun of him for playing with somebody whos not normal.
Nevertheless, this time when Sean asked Ronnie to toss the ball to him, Ronnie overcame his anxieties about being teased, and complied. Apparently they played together for twenty minutes or so, until Seans mother called him in.
Ronnie came home and proudly announced to me, Im a real hero. I did something really good today. Then he told me what happened.
I realized that this was a supreme educational moment. I had a chance to reinforce my sons act of kindness the same way I would reinforce his coming home with a straight A report card or his winning an important contest. So instead of a low-key, Isnt that nice! I clapped my hands and said, Thats terrific! Im so proud of you! You really did something noble and wonderful! I think you deserve a reward. And I treated him to the biggest ice cream cone at Baskin Robbins.
On our way home from the ice cream parlor, I realized that if I want my kids to value values, I have to set the example.
Sara R. Andrews
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