Her Words to Live By
Be good, be kind, work hard.
These are the words I send my two oldest boys off to school with each morning. Adam recently said to me, “Do you have to say that every morning?”
Yes. Yes I do.
Because there are so many other things I want to say, too, but I can’t fit them all in to a fifteen second good-bye as you push your way out of the van.
I want to tell you that it doesn’t matter what all of your friends are doing. If it’s wrong, you shouldn’t be doing it. I want to tell you that adults will treat you better if you are polite and respectful. I want to tell you that some kids are mean and to never be one of those kids. I want to tell you that it doesn’t matter how smart you are, that it’s perseverance and critical thinking that will take you far.
But, since I don’t have that kind of time, I tell you these three things, knowing that you will understand what I mean:
Be good. That’s such a trite statement. What does it really mean anyway? For my boys, it means making good, helpful behavior choices. We talk about it all the time. Everywhere we go, we review appropriate behavior. Hands to ourselves. Walking feet. Quiet voices. Follow directions. Act like polite young gentlemen. Be respectful of your own and others’ property. It means knowing what’s expected of you and doing it. Without being asked. It means being responsible for your own actions and accepting the consequences, whether positive or negative, of those actions.
Be kind. This is just a huge blanket for the Golden Rule. When asked, our boys will grudgingly admit they would not want anyone to tease/yell at/poke/slam to the ground/hit in the privates/punch/kick/slap/speak rudely to/not include them (and probably a whole host of other behaviors I don’t even know are occurring). We talk about the way characters in books and on television treat people. We talk about the way we’re treating each other and how it makes us feel. We talk about what it means to be a bully. We talk about how to lift someone up with our words and actions instead of tear them down. We teach basic common courtesy like holding doors, thanking people, and telling them to have a nice day. We practice helping someone without expecting anything in return. We work on how to give and receive compliments. And we talk about making the world a happier place in which to live.
Work hard. Again, another trite, blanket statement. But my boys know that if a job isn’t done with 100% effort the first time, be it homework, cleaning the basement or putting away clean laundry, it will have to be done a second time. I try to impress upon my sons the value of organization and tidiness. They learn from their dad and grandparents how great it feels to accomplish a project on your own. Together we relish in a job well done and offer pats on the back and praise for doing our best whether in work or play. We learn that success isn’t measured by being the best, but by doing our best, and that many times the hardest tasks to accomplish are the most satisfying.
Be good, be kind, work hard.
At six and eight years old, I’m not sure these words mean much else to our sons than just something Mommy says every day. But I’m hoping as long as my husband and I lead by example, they will become important words to live by.