People these days seem to be forgetting something that’s so crucial to the future of the world and it boggles my mind. But not just any ‘people’. Adults! Parents. Teachers. Mentors. Role Models. Rock stars. Actors. Athletes. Politicians. All adults on the planet!
We lead by example.
There’s a popular old saying that goes something like this:
Monkey see monkey do
Remember that one when you were growing up?
You’d be outside playing with your friends and then that one ‘kid’ would come around. The one who no one liked and he would imitate what you were doing because all he wants is to just fit in and be accepted and you would point and laugh at him and shout out monkey see monkey do.
And all little “Johnny” was guilty of was trying to fit in. Trying to belong. He wanted to be like the cool kids. He wanted to be liked. He just wanted friends. So little Johnny did what he thought he had to do to be liked.
He copied us.
The cool kids
Were you a ‘cool kid’? I was and I kinda wasn’t but then it all depends on what you think makes you a cool kid.
Back in my day (early 70’s) smoking was cool. Drinking was cool. Swearing was cool. Dropping out of school was cool. Stealing cars and breaking into houses was cool. Smoking weed and dropping acid was cool.
Our definition of cool was very different from what cool means today.
Where did we learn to do most of those cool things back then? From our parents, movies, rock bands, you know, the adults. Now in my parent’s defense, the only thing I learned from them was drinking, smoking and swearing (thanx dad!).
It’s clear there wasn’t much to learn in the 70’s and we didn’t have the best role models. But we had fun. A shit ton of fun.
On becoming an adult and a parent
I wasn’t raised in the most functional household on the planet. There was lots of abuse, lots of anger, hate, turmoil. It wasn’t pretty. I swore that when I had a kid of my own I wasn’t going to be anything like my parents and he would be raised with morals, standards, values, and freedom.
Now while I don’t think I’m winning any ‘parent of the year’ awards, I did a pretty good job raising my kid. He was taught things like:
- say please and thank you
- don’t be an asshole
- be nice to be people
- don’t hit people
- don’t drink and drive
- do what makes you happy as long as you aren’t hurting others
- be kind to homeless people
- don’t follow the crowd to be cool
- be nice to your mother
So he was pretty much taught the basic lessons to be a kind human being and hopefully a happy human. But not only that, a human he can be proud of being.
I led by example as much as I possibly could. I wasn’t perfect but I did my best and I gotta tell ya, he turned out to be a pretty decent human being.
Monkey see monkey do
A good definition of monkey see monkey do can be found here. Kids learn many of their lifetime habits, good and bad, by mimicking their parents.
So let’s get back to that whole ‘we lead by example’ thing. Kids are monkeys in case you didn’t know. They love to copy what we do. Interesting and bizarre but it’s true. They don’t even have to be your kids. Hell, maybe you don’t even have kids.
You could just be the ‘dude from next door’ but your neighbour’s kids are watching you. Wait, so does that mean you have to be on your best behaviour all the time?
Yes. It means don’t be an asshole. Because there are a lot of up and coming assholes in the neighbourhood that are copying everything you do at this very moment. Capiche?
But it’s bigger than you can imagine
Every time you yell, point fingers and gossip, spew hate words (yes even racial slurs) the kids are listening. Every time you do something that goes against everything you were taught, you know, the morally correct things, there’s a kid watching.
The kids watch, listen, observe and learn. From you. All of you. Everything you do. If you’re complaining about the state of the world now well, ooph, just wait. You ain’t seen nothing yet.
You think it’s gonna get better? I have a newsflash for you. That’s entirely up to you. Yes. All of you.
We’re all hypocrites
Trust me, I ain’t perfect here either. I’m not just shitting on you, this goes for all of us, even me.
We teach our kids to mind their manners. “Say thank you, Emily! Say please Johnny”! But do we always say please and thank you? When was the last time someone did something for you and you didn’t say thank you? When was the last time you demanded someone do something for you and didn’t say please?
Just think about that for a minute. I’ll wait.
When was the last time you told your kid it’s not nice to call other kids, or people in general, names? And here you are yelling at the driver in front of you or the TV calling someone a ‘fucking loser or a fucking moron’ or worse yet, yelling out a racial slur and following it up with “go back to your country you asshole”.
Oh, you’ve never done that? Kudos to you!
How about the last time you walked past a homeless person and didn’t take time to drop a dollar in their cup? Every kid who was walking at that exact same time saw that. Oh sure, they also saw the person who did drop money in their cup but I gotta tell you something, there are more people who walk by and do nothing.
That’s what the kids see.
What about that last house party you went to where there were kids. Maybe even yours. You had a few beers or a few glasses of wine. The home owners insisted you leave your keys and take a cab home but you assured them ‘you were fine to drive’.
The kids saw that too.
Let’s be clear about something
When I say kids, I’m not talking about the 3–7 year age group. Or even the 8–12 year age group. I’m talking about every child under 18. According to an article in NYTimes:
The scientific consensus that most brains do not fully develop until age 25 has led to a host of reforms in the criminal justice system and reexaminations about how society should punish young adults.
All the way up to the age of 25 our brains are still developing, learning, being programmed. Interesting.
So every single ‘child’ under the age of 18 (or 25) watches, and learns. From us. You. The adults.
Where did you learn some of your behaviours? The good and the bad? Go ahead and think about that. I’ll wait.
You have no right to complain
None of you. Not a single one of you is allowed to complain about the state of the world. Not 10 years ago, or 20 years ago or in 5 years from now or next week.
We are all part of the problem.
But did we know that we also can be part of the solution? Funny how that works.
Let’s go back to the question from earlier- “Wait, so does that mean you have to be on your best behaviour all the time”?
So do you? Well, is it so hard to be a decent human being? Is it so hard to be kind and accepting and compassionate and understanding? Don’t answer that. Just think about it for a minute.
You want tomorrow to be better but how do you think this will happen if we don’t teach the little people of today how to be better humans? Don’t answer that either.
We all want to point fingers at the “parents, the teachers”. Well if they did ‘their’ job the world would be a better place. Is that a fact? If you don’t think anyone can ever see your actions you’re living in a fantasy world (unless you’re a hermit and actually never ever leave the house and you don’t have kids).
You’re part of the problem. I’m part of the problem. We all are.
Do your part
Your part to be part of the solution, not the problem.
Do your part to lead by example.
Do your part to help make the world a better place to live in.
Do your part to teach human kindness.
The world is changed by your example, not your opinion.
I’m doing my part. Can you do yours?
xo iva xo