Our attitudes and opinions form how we see the world, and they are based on our own experiences and the attitudes of those around us.
Our children pick up on this in many ways, and how we handle things shapes their attitudes. There are hosts of psychoanalysts whose sole purpose is to find out how your parents shouting or disapproval has screwed up your life. Today I want to recount a true incident that happened to me in the early 1990s whilst I was working in the local council park as a children’s entertainer in the summer holidays,
There were about 90 children plus parents sat in front of the bandstand. This was South London and there was a nice racial mix in the audience. During the show I told the children that I would choose people to help me who were sat up straight, arms folded, paying attention and smiling. When I chose my first helper it was a little Indian girl who was sitting up straight, arms folded, smiling and paying attention. As she came up and started to help, a little boy aged about 4 stood up and said “You’re a racist, you didn’t pick me because I am black!!!” I stopped the show. I asked him “Were you sat with your arms crossed?”, “No” was the reply,” were you smiling”, again “No” he said and I then said “those where the reasons I didn’t choose you”.
However this attitude had to come from somewhere, and it most likely came from parents or close family. This may not have been intentional, but children reflect their environment.
Prior to my divorce, my cousin asked if my boys would be ring bearers at his and his partners’ church blessing. My youngest son had been born on the day that they had celebrated their civil partnership, and therefore it was appropriate for him to be a part of their special day. I was very proud that my cousin wanted my sons to have such a special role in their church blessing.
However it was something that my then wife was uncomfortable with, not for any other reason than how it would be seen by friends and people at the boys prep school. The attitude that I want my children to understand is that family is family and that you love them unconditionally. If my cousin had committed fraud or had been in prison I would still have said yes. My wife’s negative attitude towards the subject was picked up on by my boys.
A similar perception happened when it came to secondary school choices. My ex-wife and myself disagreed, and our different attitudes were definitely picked up on. Sometimes it is awkward, or certainly hard to hide our own prejudices and allow our children to form their own opinions. However, I will disown any child of mine who chooses to support Chelsea over Man United! Or at the least I will pay for counselling and a rehabilitation course.
LOL – but it is our attitude to the silly things in life like the beggar in the shopping centre; paying taxes; how we treat our pets or an opinion of a political leader that can be as influential in developing our children’s characters.
So next time you have an attitude to someone or something just think of the affect that may be having on your child. For good or bad, remember the words of Philip Larkin… This Be the Verse. By Philip Larkin (Warning the poem contains some strong language)
As a Dad it’s too late to heed his advice but the sentiment is one we should all remember!
Till next week