A case for embracing our innate nobility.
I’d like to begin this post
with a couple of questions. Take a moment to ponder the following questions and
take stock of your answers and attitudes towards children.
- When you think of children, what thoughts immediately come to
- What are or were some of your assumptions about children
before you had your own?
- Do you attribute intent to a child’s behavior?
- What are your beliefs about the nature of a child or a
Too often, adults associate
negative traits to children. We hear statements like, “he keeps pushing my
buttons,” “they drive me crazy,” “children can’t be trusted,” “if you give them
an inch, they will take a mile,” “they are manipulative.” I’m sure you can add
a few more to this list.
We are well aware of the
behaviors expected of teenagers, and they are mostly negative. Adults often
attribute negative intent to children’s behaviors. Where do these assumptions
and beliefs come from? What is our collective paradigm about children and how
do we shift that? Does it stem from the belief that humans are created sinful?
I’d like to challenge these
assumptions and suggest a paradigm shift around our attitude and assumptions
about children by drawing your attention to these two quotes that invite us to
view children from the lens of their nobility and innate potential for good.
Both of these quotes are by Baha’u’llah – The prophet founder of the Baha’i
“O SON OF SPIRIT! Noble
have I created thee, yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for
which thou wast created.”
“Regard man as a mine
of gems rich in inestimable value, education can alone cause it to reveal its
splendors and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its midst.”
The first quote draws us to
the fact that every human being is created noble, and when we abase ourselves
(behave in a manner that belittles or degrades us), it calls us to rise
and remember that we are noble. It acknowledges that we are going to make
mistakes, but reminds us that can always choose to rise to our nobility. Noble,
besides meaning “of noble birth,” also means having moral principles
and ideals; virtuous, honest, ethical, self-sacrificing, brave and more.
The second quote gives us
another lens through which to see others. As parents, our job is to educate our
children so that they can reveal those “pearls of wisdom” that lie within each
and every one of us. The word educate comes from the Latin word educare,
which means to “bring
or lead out, draw forth.” Our job as parents,
and by default educators, is to draw forth that which is already within them.
When we label a child as a
troublemaker, it changes our attitude and other people’s attitudes towards
them. Eventually, they live up to our expectations. Labeling a child limits
them because they stop trying to reach for something better. I believe if we
spent our energies learning how to mine those gems that lay hidden within each
child and thought of them as having inestimable value, our attitude towards
them would change and we would inevitably help raise children that embody
virtue and character. Wouldn’t the world be better as a result?
This is the paradigm through
which I have chosen to raise my children. These quotes have been a part of my
parenting mantra. They helped shift my mindset and remind me, particularly when
parenting is challenging, that my children are created noble. As a result, I
have held myself and my children to those high ideals. This has led me to see
misbehavior as teachable moments, that mistakes are for learning and that a
misbehaving child is trying to meet a need. My job as a parent is to figure out
what that need is and when possible, problem solve together and seek solutions.
We are all created noble and
have a tremendous capacity for love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and so
much more if we are nurtured and disciplined in a way that draws those
qualities forth. Think of a diamond, it
doesn’t start out shiny, but it has the potential to be shiny. Someone has to
mine it, cut it, polish it, and care for it in order that it may reveal its
light. So too, children have to be nurtured, loved, guided, disciplined, and
educated in order to reveal their splendor.
Let’s stop picking on their weakness,
or reminding them of their wrongs, or expecting that they will behave badly
because they are children. Let’s instead focus on their strengths and their
potential for good.
How do we do this? Here are a few simple ways to start.
Use the language of
virtues to shift the narrative.
- “Be polite” versus “Don’t be rude.”
- “You need to practice moderation” or “What would
help you…?” versus “You are being so
- “Be patient” versus “Stop whining, you are
driving me crazy!”
- “I need (or expect) you to be gentle and play
peacefully with your brother/sister“ versus “Stop hurting Johnny.”
- Think about your words and the goal of your statements. What is it you are
trying to get through to them? Young children are not
always sure what to replace the unwanted behavior with; they need us to spell
it out for them. If we want them to be careful, polite, loving, peaceful,
or patient, then we should communicate that to them. Saying “don’t be rude” doesn’t
communicate to a child that you want them to be polite.
- One statement focuses on the bad behavior or on
what not to do, the other on the expected behavior on their nobility. The tone
of your voice can reflect the seriousness of what is expected.
the behavior we expect from our children is our greatest tool. How do you deal with challenging situations? Your children are watching you. When you mess
up, do you apologize, make reparations, and take responsibility, or do you
blame others? Do you use yelling as a discipline tool all too often? Show your
children how to be virtuous.
Acknowledge them when they are being virtuous.
We are quick to let our children know when they do something
wrong or have made a mistake, but do we acknowledge them enough when they do
something right? The following are examples of ways to acknowledge them.
- I acknowledge your courage or I see that took a
lot of courage on your part to…
- Thank you for being helpful this morning by
putting away the dishes, cleaning up after breakfast etc. (be specific about
what they were being helpful with).
- I have faith in you to figure it out (depending
on their age and situation).
trust your judgment
Share their stories
Stories are a powerful
way to connect and remind us of who we are. When children are having difficulty
being virtuous, remind them of a time when they were virtuous so they know that
they can do it again. Here are two ways to use stories.
them of their stories and successes. “Remember how patient you were when we
were stuck in traffic for over an hour on our way to grandma’s…?” Or, “Remember
the first time you went on stage and you were so scared? That took courage, but
you did it.”
with them by sharing your own stories and struggles. They will remember the
stories about your personal struggles better than any story you might read
them. Knowing you have struggled through tough experiences helps them see that
you understand what they are going through, and it gives them strength.
relevant, share stories of other family members, your people, and ancestors, so
they know who paved the way for them to be here. It can help them become more
resilient and courageous when they know that they are a part of something
larger and nobler.
Thank you for taking
the time to read this post. Share your thoughts and comments, and have a
Ridvan Foxhall is a mother of two young adult children, she is an occupational therapist and positive discipline parenting educator. Ridvan Foxhall is the founder and Producer of The Children’s Theatre Co. of Peekskill, and executive director of New Era Creative Space, an educational enrichment center dedicated to awakening children to their innate potential for good by exposing them to programs that are fun, creative, experiential and character building. Follow me on Medium and visit ridvanfoxhall.com and necspace.com to learn more about my adventures.