We were each blessed with the gift of agency. We have the ability to make our own choices, whether they are good or bad. Unfortunately, many of us know someone who has made poor decisions and is winding down a dark and depressing path. These people may be friends or neighbors or they may even be an immediate family member.
As our children grow up, they begin to recognize the decisions others make and many questions may begin to surface. When your children see close family members and friends making poor decisions such as participating in drugs and alcohol, being mentally or physically abusive, dropping out of school, etc., they may begin to question this behavior and feel it is OK, or they may become judgmental and distance themselves from that individual.
As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children not to judge the actions of others. It is our job to teach them what is right and wrong and how to maintain a healthy relationship with someone, even though we may not be pleased with their choices and actions. Here are a few ways you can help your children accept and love others, even when they are making poor and disheartening choices.
Set clear expectations
It is important that children are taught the difference between wrong and right at a young age. They need to understand that certain things are wrong, no matter who is participating in them. For example, smoking, drinking and drugs are bad, there is no good in them. Viewing pornography is another action that has no good in it, yet it is becoming increasingly popular, especially among youth.
Teach your children what you expect of them. If you don’t want them around drugs and alcohol, tell them. Set rules for when children are with their friends and let them know the types of behaviors that will make you sad and upset if they participate in them.
Explain the consequences
To every action, there is a consequence. Take the time, especially when children are young, to teach them this basic principle and help them understand there are both good and bad consequences. For example, if you eat your vegetables, fruits and other healthy food, your body will function properly and have an easier time fighting off illnesses. If you jump off the couch, you could land and hurt yourself. Each action has a consequence.
When children see others make a bad choice, take the time to teach your children about the consequence of that action. For example, if your child sees someone smoking, explain the health consequences of smoking such as it damages different organs in the body, causes cancer and can eventually kill that individual. However, be sensitive to the situation. If your children are asking questions about family members, be mindful of how you respond to avoid offending the person who has made that decision.
Let your child fail
Sometimes mistakes are our best teachers. We can’t shield our children from everything. They need to have experiences in their life that push them to be better. In some situations, let your children fail. If they see others making a poor decision and they press forward with that same choice, let them reap the consequences and make the mistake.
Be an example
Take control of your own life and the choices you make. Your children look to you for guidance and as an example of how to live life. When they see you making poor decisions, they will most likely do the same. By being an example, you can help your children avoid falling into bad habits and making poor decisions. Your children will also have an easier time withstanding temptations when they come. They will know who to spend their time with and who will only bring them down. The impact you have as a parent is vital in the person your children grow up to become. Here are some tips on value-based parenting.
In our society today, there are people all around us making poor choices. These individuals may play a critical role in our children’s lives but through proper teaching, instruction and mentoring, you can help your children accept those who make wrong decisions. You can teach your children to withstand the temptations that tear them down and help them accept and love everyone, no matter that individual’s actions.
Courtnie Erickson is a Utah State University graduate and a technology guru.