Sure, we say it all of the time: The most important thing is that you are a nice person.
Our kids hear it over and over.
But, do we mean it?
I think the easy answer is that, of course, it’s important to MOST of us that our children are good and lovely people. I know that that is my answer. But, I also know that being nice can feel downright crappy sometimes. I know that sometimes being kind can lose you the game. Being caring doesn’t help you to get into college.
So, in order to hope for kind and loving kids, we may have to give up some of our other dreams for our children. That’s just the way it is. The reality is that there are always trade-offs in life. Kindness may not cost anything, but it does require a selflessness that can feel costly to some.
It is not totally free to do the right thing. There will always be sacrifices that come with being good and fair to others.
The kid who stands up for the bullied kids, may get bullied too. People who are willing to stand up against injustice may not always advance in their careers as quickly. Doing the right is NOT always popular. We’ve all seen the posters.
In case yours was the only high school that didn’t have this plastered in every classroom:
Being good and right can freaking suck.
It can have some pretty crappy consequences.
It’s kind of a pain in the ass sometimes.
It can get hairy and stressful.
So, I think it is important to teach kids that when they are doing the right thing, it may not always feel great. Sometimes, it may make them feel embarrassed, or sad, or angry or even persecuted. That’s the truth. It may not feel nice at all. That’s the bottom line.
In order to be kind and loving, we have to give some things up and we have to be prepared to get backlash from people who do not see our side. If we don’t prepare our kids for that reality, then we are not fully preparing them to be kind and fair humans.
If our kids are nice, then they see what is right and what is wrong. They feel sad. They care. They may look on with pity or empathy at a troubling situation on the news.
But, those people don’t always help.
Strong people stand up and help.
So, I guess I’ll have to be honest and say…
I don’t want nice kids. I want strong kids.
Strong kids will be able to decipher right from wrong and act on their instincts. Strong kids will jump into motion when they see that they are needed. That’s strength. I want kids who are so confident and secure and full of love that they walk out into the world ready to spread it.