The Examples We Set
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
“A good example holds twice the value of good advice” ~ Unknown
As the days have gone by since receiving the phone call from the assistant principal regarding Noah and his bullying incident, I have had a lot of time to think about all of the outside (and inside) influences that are in his life that may have contributed to his actions. I look at those of us in his life, as well as things like television and video games. I am constantly telling him that he needs to keep himself in check because he is now an example to his baby sister. But what kind of example am I being to my children?
In all of our talks that we had during the initial phase of him getting into trouble at school, I told Noah repeatedly that he was no better than anyone else. I asked him where he ever got the idea that he had any place to stand and ridicule anybody else for his perception of their failures. “How dare you!” I said sternly. But when I stop and think about it, I would be lying if I said that I never acted better than, or superior to, someone else; we all would. I can remember, as a middle schooler, being in choir, knowing that I had a relatively good singing voice. I had done my first solo as a fourth grader, so sure I knew I could sing – and I knew that I could sing better than some of my classmates in choir class. Did I ever make fun of any of them, acting like I was better? I hope not, but I honestly don’t remember. In high school, I joined journalism and became an editor on the school newspaper, and yeah, I knew that I could write. I knew that I wanted to write as an adult, for my profession, because I was “just that good.” Did I ever make fun of any of my classmates for their spelling and grammar mistakes? Probably. I will openly admit that one. I have a hard time even now keeping my mouth shut on those. However, just because I may write better than someone else doesn’t mean that I believe myself to be better as a person than they are. But now, years later and all grown up, what kind of example am I to my very easily influenced twelve-year-old, and for that matter, my soon-to-be seven-month-old baby girl?
I know that there have been times that I have been out and about and have seen someone who was dressed in what I decide is “odd,” with body parts hanging out that, in my opinion, should NOT be. So I am sure that I have made remarks, and yes, in front of my child. We ALL have done this – and nobody better comment and tell me that they haven’t – or else www.peopleofwalmart.com wouldn’t exist. We all have pointed and laughed at others, as adults, for one reason or another. But just because we have all done it doesn’t make it any more okay. I have been more and more aware of these kinds of actions in the past few weeks, keenly aware that I can no longer stand in ridicule of anyone else if I expect my children to hold to those same standards. Yesterday, this thought came blaring back to me as we were leaving, of all places, Wal Mart. A woman that I have seen there before was entering as we were about to leave. She is in a motorized chair because of a disfigurement – she has a regular sized, large torso, but with very small and disfigured arms and legs. I saw her out of the corner of my eye as I was checking out, and soon Noah was staring and saying, “Mom! Pssst. Look. Over there.” I kept checking out, refusing to turn in her direction. This then prompted a long lecture as we were leaving about staring or making comments or making fun of anybody, much less someone with a handicap or disfigurement. I was mortified once again. I know that young children stare and say things about people because they don’t yet understand that they shouldn’t – but HE is old enough to know. But kids learn that it is okay to do it by their parent’s example, don’t they? It really got me thinking, and it really got me thinking that while I don’t do that on a regular basis, I AM guilty of it, which probably makes me a hypocrite in Noah’s eyes. So just like he, together we will have to start thinking before speaking and/or reacting. I want my children to treat everyone as their equal, not ever as inferior or less than. I have been treated that way and don’t like it; so I know that others don’t either. Now, if everyone else could just take a self-examining look within, just think of how different the world would be and how differently we would – and could – all treat each other?
Change begins with a whisper ~ The Help