This week's Spin Cycle topic from Jen was "Morals". So I thought it was rather fitting that when I sat down at my computer this morning MSN had an article, "Should you teach your kids to cheat in sports?" Sometimes life just hands you blog fodder.
When I saw the title, I'm sure I had the same thought as 4 out of 5 parents. "Why is that even a question? Who would do that? This is why our country is in such big trouble, when our morals are so far into the toilet they couldn't even be plunged to the surface!" But the author makes a good point, in that many professionals "cheat" on a regular basis, and our kids can clearly see it when they watch those games. If your kid is trying to be just like his favorite sports legend (a questionable role model to begin with) he'll want to try some of their tactics. And it's up to the parents (gasp) to teach them that it's just not the way to do things.
I think there are a lot of areas in life where it can seem black and white, and yet we live in the grey. We don't steal, right? But if you realize your cashier didn't charge you for the $2.50 dish detergent, do you go all the way back to the store to pay? I mean, that's stealing, after all. Not intentional, but are intentions all that counts in morality? When you discover the mistake if you don't correct it, isn't that immoral, also?
But onward. To my chosen topic, which is, what do you teach the kids? I think we all tout the Golden Rule, do unto others. But do you really do it? I think we use it to teach kids the basics. Don't hit if you don't want to be hit. Don't bully if you don't want to be bullied. Don't steal, don't lie, don't be mean, and give some of those damn blocks to your brother before I knock you into next week. Oops, I mean, always share what you have. Basic, right, because that's what kids understand.
What about the stuff we teach about morals indirectly. Raise your hand if you kid has mimiced you swearing in traffic? Or said, "That's stupid/gay/retarted" or said "shut up" to a friend? You didn't teach them such intolerence, but they learned it from you. We know we're supposed to model good behaviors, but some times it's hard. Do you look away at people on the street (side note- who else cries when they hear Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" and promises to be a better person until the next song comes on?) When you're friend or their kid has a fund raiser to do, do you give a little something because you want to encourage that kid to be charitable or do you swear softly under you breath because that's $10 you can't spend at Starbuck's next week?
You actually have to try to get a different message across. We give freely when we can. I'm not handing my kid the $10 to buy poppies because it's cute- I do it so he is part of the giving. I hope that when he's old enough he remembers that simple act and shakes the vets hand, thanks them and says, "No, I don't need change", too. Because I'm worried that too many kid will remember that their Mom said, "Oh, I don't have cash." or "I'll catch you on my way out." and not mean it. When we see someone in a wheel chair (which LG thinks are the coolest thing ever) I squish my initial urge to simply let that person be, and I let LG go tell them how much he likes their chair. It's the right thing to do, and he wants to do it. It's up to me to encourage that kind of stuff, or it might not always be that way. How much of our original morality wears off because of apathy (on the part of our parents, or teachers, or whoever else might have encouraged us but didn't.) I'm not saying a reward (I don't hand him $1 or anything). Just a smile and a "that was nice, LG, I'm happy you did that".
It's all about cutting through the krappe, the excuses, the lies and realizing that if we want to make the world a better place (thanks, Michael) it needs to start with us. You, me and our kids.