Character Corner: Generosity–weekly musings, quotes, and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

3382910971_854fa9f113

Whenever Louisa (age eight) and her little sister Jenna are each offered something special, Louisa immediately makes a judgment about which item is most desirable, and lobbies to get that one for herself.  She wants the biggest cookie, the purple bathrobe, and the window seat.

 

Her parents were getting worried about Louisa growing up selfish.  But for her birthday, she chose to have all of her friends give money to the World Wildlife Fund for polar bears instead of giving her gifts.  Now they are confused.

What is Generosity?

Generosity is freely sharing what we have with others. It is being willing to offer money, help or time when it is needed. To be generous means giving something that is valuable to you without expectation of reward or return. Sometimes generosity requires pushing past a feeling of reluctance because we all instinctively want to keep good things for ourselves. That is normal. Even so, we can structure our lives in ways that make generosity more spontaneous and fun.

When we intentionally “live below our means” and avoid over-commitment, we cultivate a sense of bounty or surplus that makes us want to share. Then we can reap the pleasure of knowing we have made someone else’s life a little happier.

How generosity develops.

As social animals, all of us come into the world primed to defend our near term self-interests but also primed to participate in a community in of sharing.  If you watch toddlers at play, you will see both kinds of behavior, sometimes in a rather confusing collage because they are experimenting with rather confusing impulses.

Our challenge as parents is to accept that collage and then nudge our children toward the qualities that will make them good family members, good workmates and good citizens, and generosity is a quality prized in all three.

Five Quotes to Contemplate, Post and Discuss.

(To print a quote as a small poster, click on the quote, which will take you to the Wisdom Commons, then click the print button after the quote.)

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single minute before starting to improve the world.
–Anne Frank

He that gives should never remember, he that receives should never forget.

–Talmud

Think of giving not as a duty but as a privilege. 
–John D. Rockefeller

The habit of giving only enhances the desire to give.
– Walt Whitman

It takes generosity to discover the whole through others. If you realize you are only a violin, you can open yourself up to the world by playing your role in the concert.
–Jacques Yves Cousteau

Bringing it home to your kids

1.    Don’t measure your child by sibling relationships; there’s simply too much at stake for many kids to be at their best there.  Do insist on fairness and let them know how much you appreciate their acts of generosity in the family.

2.    Give words to the internal tug-of-war they feel at times between knowing they should consider others but wanting to hog.  We all feel it.  Let them know they are normal, and that they can choose generosity sometimes even when they feel conflicted.  Our feelings inform us; they don’t control us.

3.    Help your child be generous to someone who is close to home, whether this means gathering dandelion leaves for a caged guinea pig or making cookies for an elderly neighbor.  Doing it together is the best way to make it fun.

4.    Talk about your charitable giving – both the what-and-why of it and how you weigh choices against each other.  As your kids get older, show them some of the more interesting stories and pictures you get back from organizations you support.

5. Consider matching or double-matching your child’s donations (including birthday presents they channel to charity).  They will see real results faster, and they’ll love getting to “make you” spend your money on causes they care about.

Photo credit:

Character Corner: Citizenship – weekly musings, quotes and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

child-helping-with-shovel-snow

Thirteen year old Katherine resents having to pick up and vacuum the basement playroom every Saturday morning.  She protests that she doesn’t even spend time down there – that all of the clutter and dirt are from her younger sisters, Jill and Jennifer.

 

To make matters worse, this Saturday at 11:00 is a Spring clean-up at the neighborhood park.  Normally the whole family goes, but as Katherine ramps up her outrage, her parents begin wavering.  All the things she says are true:  She has lots of homework.  Her friendssleep in on Saturdays.  Nobody else her age will be at the park. And the twins really are the ones who use the basement.

Katherine’s parents end up letting her stay home, but they don’t feel good about it.  As they leave the house they can hear Katherine angrily bumping the vacuum cleaner down the stairs.  They want their daughter to be a contributing member of the family and community, but they’re not quite sure how to balance this with time for friends and school.

What is Citizenship?

As social beings, humans tend to flourish only in community.  We depend on each other more than we realize.  There is no such thing as a self-made man or woman.  Citizenship means giving back to the communities of which we are a part, acknowledging our debt to both the living and to those who came before us.

We participate in the roles and tasks that must be filled for a healthy collective; whether that collective is a household, a nation-state, or something bigger. We do what needs doing rather than leaving it for someone else. We seek to elevate not only our own well being but the well being of all. Since home is the first place that we learn to rely on each other, this is where we begin learning what it means to live in community with others.

Five Quotes to Contemplate, Post and Discuss.

Just as the wave cannot exist for itself, but must always participate in the swell of the ocean, so we can never experience life by ourselves, but must always share the experience of life that takes place all around us. 
–Albert Schweitzer

You can’t be human alone.
–Margaret Kuhn

Genuine politics — even politics worthy of the name — the only politics I am willing to devote myself to — is simply a matter of serving those around us: serving the community and serving those who will come after us. Its deepest roots are moral because it is a responsibility expressed through action, to and for the whole.
–Vaclav Havel

Honest people know that the road to success and virtue always involves shared sacrifice, hard work, and gratification postponed.  Telling people otherwise isn’t leadership, it is pandering. 
– Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
–Margaret Mead

Bringing it home to your kids

1.  Remember, it takes three kinds of responsibilities for children to become well rounded citizens: taking care of themselves, giving back to the community of people who give to them, and serving people who can’t give back.  How is your child learning each of these?

2.  When you can, team up with your child to get a job done.  Dust the same room they are vacuuming.  Chop vegetables together.  Find service projects that they can do with friends.  Serving the community is a lot more fun when it’s done in community.

3.  As fitting, give your child a voice in the division of labor and in choosing service projects.  Not all jobs are fun, and sometimes as a parent you simply need to insist that something get done.  All the same, giving children options among tasks that need doing can help create a sense of ownership and commitment—especially as they approach the teen years.

4.  Create some kind of community service routine for your family, however intermittent or small.  Routine is the key word here.  Make community service part of “who we are” as a family.

5. Remember efficiency and effectiveness comes through practice.  When your child is young, it may be more work to have them help than to do tasks alone, but the only way for those tasks and activities to get easier is for your kid to have lots of opportunities for practice.

Photo credit:

Character Corner: Common Sense — musings, quotes, and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

girl-hug-a-tree

Josie, who is in the fifth grade, spends the afternoon with her neighbor Debbie, who is a year older.  Other girls join them.  That evening, Josie shows her mom a round red mark on her arm and confesses that she let the older girl touch her arm with a hot spoon as a secret initiation into a club they were making.

 

Her mother is upset.  “What were you thinking?!” she exclaims as she puts salve on the burn.  Later she complains to her husband, “I wish that girl would use her head.  Will she ever learn common sense?”

What is common sense?

Common sense is a kind of intuitive judgment derived from experience, both our own school of hard knocks and the distilled experience that gets handed down as folk wisdom. Together, these create what we think of as “good instincts.”  The concept of common sense suggests that people have a body of shared, unwritten knowledge that allow us to function successfully even in the absence of formal advisers or schooling. Education can provide another treasure trove of information that lets us understand the limitations of our common sense instincts.

When we access our common sense, we find a trove of valuable practical information that helps guide our choices and actions. Common sense answers aren’t always right answers, but they are a great starting point especially when peers are egging each other on.

Quotes to contemplate discuss and share.

Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.
Franklin Roosevelt

The folly of mistaking a paradox for a discovery, a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself for an oracle, is inborn in us.
–Paul Valery

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. 
– Buddha

If common sense were a reliable guide, we wouldn’t need science.
–Amanda Geftner

Bringing it home to your kids

  1. Remember, childhood is about acquiring common sense—mostly by exercising bad judgment in situations where the consequences are minor compared to what they will be in adulthood.   Falling down is part of learning to walk.
  2. Take time when you and your child are calm and rested to process missteps.  Pragmatic, sympathetic questions often are more useful than scolding, since self assessment is the key to growth:  What do you wish you had done?  How do you hope you might handle that next time?
  3. When your child will be with peers who tend to push the limits, help them to anticipate sticky situations they might get into and talk through some options in advance.
  4. Share stories of binds you’ve gotten yourself into and out of.  One of the great things about our capacity for imagination is that we don’t have to fall into every pit ourselves.
  5. Tape Portia Nelson’s “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” to the inside of a cupboard door, or someplace where you’ll be able to read it when your child seems to need the same lesson over and over.

Photo credit:

Character Corner: Curiosity — musings, quotes, and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

Curious children

Six-year-old Tommy has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  As he buzzes from activity to activity, he can drive his classmates or babysitter nuts. His father, Joe, appreciates their dilemma:  During a recent trip to the Grand Canyon, Joe turned around to see that Tommy had scrambled over a protective railing and was inching toward the edge.

 

Upon returning home, Tommy’s parents entered counseling to figure out how they can help Tommy channel his energy in ways that are appropriate and safe.

At the same time, Joe loves Tommy’s inquisitive nature.  He worries that Tommy is receiving so much exasperation and disapproval from people around him that his natural curiosity will be crushed.

After Tommy destroys a remote control by disassembling it, the family agrees that Tommy will pay it back by helping his mother pull weeds over the weekend.  At the suggestion of the therapist, Joe also makes a trip to a local thrift store where he buys an old TV set.  When the remote is paid back, Joe presents the TV to Tommy with a set of screwdrivers and other tools.  Tommy shouts for joy and throws his arms around Dad, and both of them, for the moment, are in heaven.

What is curiosity?

Curiosity is a hunger to explore and a delight in discovery. When we are curious, we approach the world with a child-like habit of poking and prodding and asking questions. We are attracted to new experiences. Rather than pursuing an agenda or a desired set of answers, we follow our questions where they lead.

Curiosity makes us interested in a broad range of information about the world around us, not only that with direct utility. We learn for the joy of learning.

Socially, curiosity lets us really listen to other people because we want to know who they are. We open ourselves to the morsels of knowledge and experience they can share with us. We relish having discoveries of our own to share.

Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.
–Rachael Carson

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!), but “that’s funny…”
–Isaac Asimov

The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
–Eden Phillpots

It is well to read everything of something, and something of everything.
–Lord Henry P. Brougham

Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when one contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.
– Albert Einstein

Bringing it home to your kids

  1. At every age, supply your kids with materials that can pique their curiosity.  Thrift stores are a great source, as you can rotate toys, books, and recycled art supplies more readily.
  2. Cultivate a library habit!
  3. Even nonverbal children let us know what interests them – through eye movements, reaching and later crawling.  Communicate with your spouse and childcare providers what you notice about your child’s interests (which will be constantly changing.)
  4. Minimize media time; the passive flow of information makes it harder for many children to get interested in other kinds of exploration and discovery.
  5. Consider making car-seat time reading time.  Supply books as soon as your child can hold them and turn pages.  Leave the music and video players at home or use them sparingly.
  6. Indulge your own curiosity – model for your child the habit of lifetime learning.

Photo credit:

Character Corner: Courtesy– musings, quotes, and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

polite-sweet-child

Courtney grew up in a strict authoritarian family in which children (who should be seen not heard) addressed adults by their titles and last names:  Mr. Jameson, Pastor Samuels and so on.

 

As a young adult, she often found herself anxious in the presence of authority figures and had a hard time calling her professors by their first names even when they asked her to.  She wants her eight year old son Tony to be more self assured – to feel confident that his opinions and interests will matter to others.

She has always introduced other adults by their first names, and she encourages him to speak up in adult company.  But lately she is aware of him barging in to adult conversations.  He asks for favors as if he is entitled to them and often forgets his thank yous.  She is becoming embarrassed for him.

What Courtesy?

Courtesy is the gift of treating others with warmth and respect. It means according dignity to people by being considerate, responsive, and kind in our dealings with them. It means we are sensitive to their feelings and needs, and also how they may misinterpret our behavior.

Courtesy is the outward manifestation of an inward humility that recognizes how very much others give to us and inconvenience themselves for us.  We respond to their generosity with a generosity of our own. Courtesy facilitates successful interaction and negotiation, laying a foundation for understanding and harmony.

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

There is a courtesy of the heart; it is allied to love. From its springs the purest courtesy in the outward behavior.
–Johann Wolfgang Goethe

Politeness is the art of choosing among one’s real thoughts.
–Abel Stevens

Politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax.
–Arthur Schopenhauer

It is better to have too much courtesy than too little, provided you are not equally courteous to all, for that would be injustice.
–Baltasar Gracian

Life is short, but there is always time enough for courtesy.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bringing it home to your children

  1. Courtesy need not make your child feel small or undeserving.  Insist that children be courteous and respectful – and treat them with courtesy and respect.
  2. Quietly take the time to point out when someone has done your child a favor they didn’t have to do.  Help them to see the give and take of everyday life, and coach them in how to respond to it.
  3. Let your child know that some kinds of respect must be earned—that a scholar has worked hard for his expertise—that not all opinions are created equal.
  4. Cultivate a sense of gratitude in your child.  When you do little favors, or arrange special experiences say, “Who loves you” with a teasing smile.
  5. Even during hard times, be explicit in pointing out life’s riches. People who feel blessed also feel generous—in giving thanks, giving courtesy, and giving of themselves.

Photo credit:

Character Corner: Creating and Appreciating Beauty — musings, quotes, and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

child-crafts

Lora is a middle school art teacher in Seattle, Washington.  Her students have been brought up to see art as a form of self expression, which Lora values.  But she also wants them to understand that historically around the world, people have valued another dimension of art:  the craft of creating beauty.

 

She finds herself struggling to put words on why this craft is so cherished, how our artistic sense works, and the role it plays in society.

What is beauty?

Although standards and norms of beauty vary widely from culture to culture, the quest for beauty is a human universal, and those who create beauty give a gift to the rest of us.  Beauty evokes a sense of delight and wonder, so creating beauty brings delight and wonder into the world. Though we are all different in terms of what we experience as beautiful and how we respond, those who seek to create beauty find others who appreciate their efforts.

Beauty can soothe pain, comfort sorrow, distract from illness, or inspire hope and virtue in those who experience it. It is very closely tied to our sense of spirituality, our sense of being a small part of a greater whole.  In these ways, it is tremendously powerful.  By creating beauty exercise this power.

Five Quotes to contemplate discuss and share.

You say that in heaven there is eternal beauty. The eternal beauty is here and now, not in heaven.
–Osho

What if imagination and art are not frosting at all, but the fountainhead of human experience?
–Rollo May

You will not find poetry anywhere unless you bring some of it with you.
–Joseph Joubet

What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but, scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.
–Joseph Addison

Let the beauty we love be what we do; there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
–Rumi

Bringing it home to your kids

  1. Expose your children young to natural beauty and to the arts.  Talk with them about the feelings these inspire, both in you and in them.  Explore the various roles of art:  self expression, communication,  exploration of ourselves and our society and, of course, simply creating beauty.
  2. Call attention to visual details whether in public places, at home, or in a forest.  Take the time together to notice the world rather than simply hurrying through it.
  3. Stockpile craft supplies—paints, paper, scraps of interesting packaging or fabric, old magazines: tools your children can use creating pictures, collages and projects of their own.
  4. Don’t hide the fact that that you enjoy some of their creations better than others.  Not all of our experiments have the desired effects.
  5. Find small ways that your children can participate in creating or maintaining the beauty of your community: plant flowers together along the sidewalk, pick up litter in a park, join neighbors in restoring a greenbelt.
  6. Don’t worry if your child’s sense of aesthetics is different than yours.  Pink frills?  Jungle themes?  The important thing is that they develop a sense of satisfaction in creating beauty.  Their tastes will change.

Photo credit:

 

Character Corner: Decisiveness — musings, quotes, and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

child-contemplative

Five year old Briana labored over small decisions, whether it was what to wear to school or which flavor of ice cream to eat.  She so wanted to choose the very best one that she bogged down.  When there was no hurry, she eventually made her choice, but when time was an issue, her indecision drove her parents nuts.

 

It added stress to the morning routine and all too often made the family late.  It had reached the point at times that both Briana and her mother were in tears.

Finally Briana’s parents had a heart-to-heart with her.  They explained that not all decisions are equally important and that even for important decision we often can’t be sure what is the best decision.  They told her that when she was grown up they wanted her to have the skill of giving some a lot of consideration and making others quickly, even if she wasn’t sure.

They told her it was ok to regret some decisions.  And they told her that –as part of her learning process–when her decision-time was causing problems for her or other people they would make her decision for her.  Briana was sad and angry, but also, it seemed, relieved.

From then on, when she bogged down, Mom or Dad would ask, “Are you ready to make a best guess or should we do it this time?”  Not only did it save the family sanity, but over time their routine helped Briana get a sense of how much time she could afford for different kinds of decisions.

What is decisiveness?

Decisiveness is the willingness to make decisions, even in the face of complexity or uncertainty. When we are decisive, we weigh the information that is available to us and we use our judgement to choose among the possibilities. It is easier to be decisive when we are clear about our values and goals.

Decisiveness means taking the risk that we may be wrong, but knowing that perfect clarity is rarely available and indecision can be costly. It also means taking responsibility for the outcome of the decision. Together, research, analysis and decisiveness get great things done. .

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

We will never have all the facts to make a perfect judgment, but with the aid of basic experience we must leap bravely into the future.
–Russell McIntyre

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
–Theodore Roosevelt

The perfect is the enemy of the good.
–Voltaire

Have the courage of your knowledge and experience. If you have formed a conclusion from the facts and if you know your judgment is sound, act on it – even though others may hesitate or differ. You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you. You are right because your data and reasoning are right
– Benjamin Graham

Bringing it home to your kids

  1. Because our kids are constantly changing, they often are ready for more decision-making responsibility than we realize.  Pay attention to whether you are doing your kids’ mental work for them!
  2. Offer toddlers and preschoolers limited choices:  Would you rather have the red lollypop or the green one?  Would you rather wear this shirt or that one?  Even when they are older—in fact, even when they are teens– it’s ok for you to constrain the field of options.
  3. If your kids seem overwhelmed by a choice before them, try talking them through it.  But don’t be surprised if there are decisions they need you to make –even over and above their protests.
  4. Don’t harp about bad decisions. Harping can lead to resentment or decision paralysis.  Do ask about how your child would approach it next time, what they would do differently. But wait till you are both calm for this conversation.
  5. Do what you need to do to resolve any regrets about your own past decisions and move on. How you treat yourself is a powerful model for your kids.

Photo by: Sekaino Ai

Character Corner: Diligence/Thoroughness – musings, quotes, and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

boy-diligent

Jennifer’s two kids have very different approaches to cleaning their rooms on Saturday mornings.  Lisa, the younger takes her time and pays attention to detail.  Denise, the elder gets distracted by toys and books and then hurries through—but wants the same praise that Lisa gets.  The challenge for Mom is helping Denise get to the point that Mom can genuinely praise her for a job well done.

 

Together the family makes a list: “What Does a Clean Room Look Like?”  Each girl calls Mom for review and goes over the checklist with her.  Now Denise is in charge of her own evaluation, and the conversation shifts.

What is diligence?

Diligence is the earnest, conscientious application of our energy to accomplish what we’ve undertaken. When we are diligent, we pay careful attention to detail and are dedicated to achieving quality results.

Diligence means that we are continually working toward our goals, making use of what resources and opportunities are available. We are vigilant to avoid errors and to stay focused on the task at hand. Our diligence provides a basis for people trusting us with jobs that are tricky or complicated and also important to them. Diligence does not rely on talent, but employs commitment, industry, and perseverance to transform vision into reality.

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.
–George Washington Carver

Genius is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.
–Thomas Alva Edison

Every job is a portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your work with excellence..
–Abraham Lincoln

See your road through.
–J. R. R. Tolkien

What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence. 
– Samuel Johnson

Bringing it home to your kids

  1. Children thrive on teamwork, just like many adults do.  Try doing household tasks together rather than dividing them up.
  2. Whenever possible make work playful.  Simple games, singing, or trying together to beat the clock can help your child discover that work can be fun.
  3. Don’t forget how many years of practice you have at simple tasks; the difference between a job done marginally and a job done well is something that takes coaching and practice.
  4. When your child has completed a task or project, have them critique it:  Can they see where it needs improvement? Which parts are they particularly pleased with?
  5. The last five percent of a task is often the hardest.  When your child’s attention is flagging, work with them rather than working for them.
  6. Watch out for “praise inflation”—save your praise for that which is genuinely praiseworthy based on your child’s capabilities.

Photo by horizontal.integration

Character Corner: Patience – musings, quotes, and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

patient-girlPeter has been sitting for an hour with his daughter Louisa, age 12, working on a math assignment.  He hates how quickly Louisa gives up. “Be patient,” he keeps saying.  Or, “Look over it again.  You just overlooked something very simple.  I know you know how to do this. “   But Louisa’s frustration is just growing and Peter’s along with it.  He is starting to hear an edge in his voice and Louisa’s guesses are becoming more and more random.

What is patience?

Patience is allowing time to run its course and allowing people, including ourselves, to work and grow at our own pace. Patience moves our minds away from frustrations, expectations or “shoulds” and aligns us with reality. When we are patient, our energy is available to make good things happen.

Patience must be cultivated, and yet the marvelous world around and within us offers infinite and beautiful reminders that small slow changes create change beyond imagining.

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

(To print a quote as a small poster, click on the quote, which will take you to the Wisdom Commons, then click the print button after the quote.)

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.
–Robert Louis Stevenson

The most difficult thing in the world is to know how to do a thing and silently watch someone else do it wrong.
–T. H. White

Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.
–Hal Borland

Perhaps then, some day far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
–Rainer Maria Rilke

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.
—A. A. Milne
Bringing it home to your kids

  1. One of the keys to patience and the ability to delay gratification is distraction, learning to focus on something else while you wait.  When your child is frustrated by a delay, coach him or her to think about something else: a good memory, an upcoming adventure; or possibly some interesting tidbits of information.
  2. Mindfulness is fantastic for increasing patience.  Try tuning into background noise or smells. Touch an interesting object.  Savor a cold drink.
  3. Watch for the warning signs that you and your child are hitting your limits.  We all have them.  Long before you want to scream, switch tasks, switch subjects, take a little break, or indulge in a treat.   If you and your child have a task that frequently ends up being frustrating, try coming up with some of these ideas ahead of time.   Keep them your secret or let your child know what you’re up to.
  4. Before starting a task that requires patience, plan breaks with your child.  Ask him or her what how he/she can tell it’s time for a pause.  Make a light hearted game of noticing when the time is getting close.   Laughing together is a powerful antidote to frustration.
  5. Find a patience mantra or two that works for you in your times of frustration – a comforting reminder that change comes slowly, but it does come.

 

Photo by: Sarah Ross Photography

 

Character Corner: Forgiveness — musings, quotes, and parenting tips from WisdomCommons.org

Janice got divorced a year ago after discovering that her husband, Mark, had an ongoing affair.  She still feels acutely betrayed and has a hard time saying anything good about Mark to their daughter, Shani, age 8.  Even though she has “read the books” about kids and divorce, it’s all she can do to keep her mouth shut when Mark comes up in conversation.

 

She had a wake-up call this week in the form of a message from school.  Shani, who had lost her old best friend to another girl, had been plotting vengeance with her new friends and even talking about poisoning the other child by mixing liquids from home.

What is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is being able to let go of harm done. It is relinquishing a sense of injured entitlement or tit-for-tat. Forgiveness releases us from resentment or bitterness and lets us reclaim our energy and sense of balance.

Sometimes we feel like we cannot forgive without remorse or propitiation on the part of the other person, but the power of forgiveness lies within us, not in the actions or attitudes of others. Speaking our truth and taking steps to protect ourselves from future harm can help us to move on. The more we understand the person who has harmed us, their feelings, frailties and external pressures, the easier it is to forgive.

 Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

Never does the human soul appear so strong as when it foregoes revenge, and dares forgive an injury.
–E. H. Chapin

A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.
–Robert Quillen

Not the power to remember, but its very opposite, the power to forget, is a necessary condition for our existence.
–Sholem Asch

Forgive and be free.  Forget that you have forgiven and be freer.
–Buddha

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
–Mahatma Gandhi

Bringing it home to your kids

  1. When your child is an “injured party” help them to speculate about the other person’s feelings, thoughts, and human imperfections.  Understanding is a powerful driver of forgiveness.
  2. Injuries caused by pets – a scratch from a scared cat, a nip by a hungry guinea pig, bruises from being bowled over by a big dog–can be a good starting point for beginning conversations about forgiveness, because a pet’s motives are so simple compared to humans.
  3. Sibling spats offer great opportunities to coach the process of cooling down and letting go.  Only after cooling down will your child be capable of insight about a sibling’s feelings or his/her own behavior.
  4. Support your kids in asserting their sense of injury and requests for fair treatment or restitution.  But make sure they understand that they have the power to let go and move on regardless of how others behave.
  5. Mind your own tendency to bring up past transgressions.  It’s so easy to slip into gossip in front of the kids when you are with friends or complaints about a former spouse. You are a powerful model for your children in terms of nursing injuries or letting them go.

Photo by Norma Desmond