We have recently seen some rather amazing examples of lack of civility in our politics and in many other spheres of our culture. The news is full of verbal abuse, physical violence, corruption and many other forms of disrespect for our laws and our humanity. As I listen to these violations, I become increasingly concerned about what our children and teenagers are thinking about what they are witnessing. More importantly what legacies are we leaving for them to emulate in their own lives and how they will impact others?
For example we have worked for decades on mitigating bullying in our schools. Yet it appears that trend is reversing in our popular media. Basic ideals like respect, compassion and common courtesy has faded as positive qualities. We hear about chronic lying for one’s own advantage, political polarization, racism, rudeness, personal humiliation, gender discrimination, lawlessness and human trafficking to name a few. I can’t help but think that as this permeates the senses and minds of our youth that they cannot help but become cynical, stressed, disrespectful, angry or even feeling like they have permission to exploit others.
There was an article written a few years ago by Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell about teaching civility to our kids. Here are her basic points of civility for our kids:
- Think about the impact of words and actions on others before you use them.
- Apologize when you are wrong.
- Set ground rules for civil behavior at home and in classrooms.
- Teach kids how to become engaged citizens.
- Treat children and adults with the respect that you expect from them.
- Demand civility of politicians and public servants.
- Use respectful language when you disagree with someone.
- Don’t let anger and emotion get in the way of listening to others.
- Be tolerant of people who are different from you.
- Teach character strengths, like respect and empathy, at home and in classrooms.
- Challenge people’s views, but don’t attack the person.
- Acknowledge others for their civility and respectful behavior, regardless of their viewpoints.
- Remind kids often why they – and you – should be civil.
- Empower children to take a stand against bullying.
- Lead by example.
As we see and hear what is going on in our world today, it is interesting to think how far we are from some of these basic ideals. As we model and assume responsibility for our societal values we must be increasingly aware that we are leaving an emotional footprint in our society and in the lives of our kids who are our future. It seems that has been an ignored truth for many of our public leaders today.
We must recapture civility if we are going to leave legacies of stability, honesty, compassion and hope for a safe and caring world. It starts and should be most prominent in our families and communities as we teach, mentor and share experiences with our kids.