While spending some extra time in the Melbourne airport recently, I met a lovely four-year-old girl named Tory. Tory was with her Mum, Dad and older brother. Tory was talkative, playful and very happy. She absolutely radiated self-confidence and a love for life.
I spent quite awhile talking to Tory, her brother and parents and I saw the way they treated their children. It wasn't hard to notice this couple really enjoyed their kids. Tory's parents didn't treat her any differently than they treated her brother. The kids interacted freely in our conversation and laughed at our banter. They were just normal kids. But, to everyone who walked by, Tory was the centre of attention. She was anything but 'normal'. People stared and smiled. Some people stopped and talked - to Tory, or about Tory to her parents.
Finally, as we boarded the plane to LAX, I noticed Tory and her parents boarding with us - in the cattle cars - long after the first class, business class, premium economy, etc. They could have boarded first - when the announcer always calls, "Any parents with young children or those in need of assistance or extra time to board, please come forward first." But they didn't.
Tory's parents are telling her a powerful story about herself. They are teaching Tory that she is just like everyone else. Yes, she is a dwarf. Yes, she moves slower and is a lot smaller than everyone else. And yes, she is cute beyond belief. But, Tory's parents treat her like a normal kid. And, having spent a few hours observing her, she is just that - a super awesome normal kid!
The story we live in front of our children and the children around us tells them the truth of our lives and theirs. If we see and say the positive stories in life, our kids will see the world as a positive place where they can interact and make a difference.
If, on the other hand, we constantly comment on the negative state of the world, the problem with the neighbours, the unfair hand we've been dealt - our children will learn to be critical and afraid. This is a great way to ensure our children grow up to be judgmental and self-centred. They will see others as dangerous and suspicious rather than unique and beautiful. In our words, our actions and our attitudes toward others – whether they are different in faith, culture or lifestyle – our children are watching us and they are becoming like us.
As family-centred leaders, we need to send positive messages to parents and kids. Tell stories that empower rather than impede. There are so many positive messages that raise people up. In our mentoring of teachers, parents and kids we should be seen to be encouraging positive action rather than discouraging negative action.
Teaching kids to be judgmental of others, or at least wary, strengthens the attitude of "us and them". We need to be drawing all men, women and children toward Love. This "drawing toward" comes from the same core leadership desire as "drawing away" but looks, sounds and feels very different. And it most definitely creates different kinds of children and thus a different kind of world.
We are all like Tory - we are all beautifully unique. And we need to tell ourselves that. And tell our children that. The stories we tell, both verbally and with our lives, will either empower the next Generation or limit them. Don't repeat bad news. Tell good stories. Live with joy and passion. Smile.
Keep changing the world - one story at a time.
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For more parenting pondering,
see the "Parently" section of this blog.