How to Raise Kids That Give a Damn
I know. It sounds dramatic. “Give a damn.” But isn’t that what we want for our children? Children that go out of their way to help a child that feels left out or different in some way? Children that show empathy and care for another child crying? Children that see the earth not as a garbage can but rather a beautiful masterpiece to take care of with great intention? Children that truly know what it means to accept others and celebrate differences?
But how do we teach this?
The answer is we don’t teach this. We model this. And the way in which we model this deeply affects and sinks into a child’s heart and soul.
What do we care about? How do we answer their questions? How do we show them and guide them towards kindness and compassion? What does it look like to “be” inclusive?
I often think about the things kids say out loud. They often don’t have the reservations or emotional maturity to keep things to themselves at a young age. And so they see what they see and they ask because they simply want to know.
And the way in which we respond says it all.
“Mama, that person is in a funny chair and only has one leg, are they hurting?”
“What a beautiful person, they have a really special chair to help them get around the store more easily, so they are more comfortable in their body.”
“Mommy, that person is wearing a wrap around their head, why?”
“Awe yes isn’t that beautiful? People express their style, ethnicity, and who they are in so many cool ways. That person feels most comfortable wearing a head wrap. Doesn’t it look beautiful on them?”
I think as parents sometimes we aren’t ready for the curve balls our kids throw. But what if we became ready? What if we stopped asking them to look away and be quiet? Instead we answer them. We guide them. We share what’s going on, and we ask them to treat all humans with dignity and respect. It starts with us. With our actions, our honesty, our replies and our own hearts.
Teaching our children the importance of giving a damn helps them notice the beauty all around them. Normalizing the differences we share as human beings is the start. When we connect the earth and humans as one, we understand the power of unity. The power of inclusion. The power of empathy. The power of responsibility. The power of understanding the inherent worth of all things.
Our children can be guided towards believing that every human being on this planet has a right to safely exist within the body they were given. But we have a responsibility as parents to teach our children such truths. So that they too will care for all living beings.
Five things to help your children give a damn:
- Ask them to draw a picture of all the different types of people they see. Have them draw different ways people get around in their body, the ways in which hair is styled or accessorized in unique ways.
- Talk openly about different religions as well as no religion. This helps them understand that people choose religions or none as a way to connect with themselves and the world. None of it = bad.
- Demonstrate what it means to help others by bringing food to a food shelter, giving money to homeless people, and writing letters to the seniors in senior care.
- Volunteer with your children to pick up garbage in your neighborhood or city.
- Guide your kids towards reading material that familiarizes them with what it means to be inclusive of others and to treat every human being with dignity and respect.
- Be mindful of the dolls, books, and playing material that comes into your home. Intentionally represent all types of ethnicities, body types, and ways of showing up in this world.
May we guide our children to be soft, strong, kind, and assertive. May we welcome their tears as an opportunity to let them feel the emotion of sadness and anger instead of stuffing it. May we guide them towards inclusion of all human beings, and the differences that make us truly unique and beautiful individuals. May we teach them to stand up for the hurting and lonely. For these children are the hope and power of the future. A future that welcomes inclusion of all beings. Nourishment to the ground beneath our feet. Empathy and compassion to help and bring hope to every human being. May the love and passion in their eyes lead us into greater love for one another, no matter our differences.