by Dana Williams
My son has three major highlights each New Year. Eating his weight in the shrimp and crab legs we always have on New Year's Eve; sipping sparkling grape juice from a fancy champagne flute; and seeing how long he can stay awake after the ball drops in Times Square.
Resolutions usually aren't part of our New Year's tradition, but this year, he decided to add them to the ritual. His teacher planned to ask about students' resolutions when school resumed, and he told me he didn't want to be left out.
I now have a sheet of wrinkled notebook paper on the fridge with several statements outlining how he will "be a better kid in 2006."
Among the declarations are "clean my room every day," "get ready for school without whining" and "get all happy faces on my daily conduct calendar." (Yeah, right.)
Out of curiosity, and somewhat inspired by his youthful optimism, I asked my son what things I could do to be a better mom in 2006.
"You should do the things you tell me to do," he answered with little thought or hesitation.
"What kinds of things do you mean?" I asked.
"You know, how you always tell me not to yell, but then you do it, stuff like that," he said.
Unable to argue with his point, I wrote down my own resolution for the coming year: "Lead by example." Then I posted it next to his on the fridge.
Since I jotted down those three words, I've been mulling over other ways I have talked the talk but haven't necessarily walked the walk. Yelling, it seems, isn't the only example.
Teaching tolerance by example
As parents it is easy to talk to kids about the values we want them to embrace and live by. It is so much harder to show kids these values.
Tolerance and respect for others is something I often emphasize with my son. I'm always looking for teachable moments in his life to help discuss and underscore the importance of these values.
Typically precipitated by a question from him or some isolated incident, my son and I often talk about the big things: the N-word, same-sex marriage, racial and gender stereotypes.
But what about the many days when there are no difficult questions or incidents? What am I doing on a daily basis to impart the values of tolerance and respect?
It takes little effort for example, for me to give lip service to tolerance and tell my son how important it is to embrace the different viewpoints and backgrounds others in the world hold. But can I really expect him to learn to apply it as a core belief when his father (my ex) makes a comment I don't like and I fly off the handle?
Too often, the kind of tolerance we as parents talk to kids about is from a distance. We talk about respecting the views, backgrounds and lifestyles of "others" in the world yet we do not practice the same with those in our day-to-day lives.
Truly teaching tolerance to kids takes much more than lip service. Instead, it takes adopting a way of life.