This post by Positive Discipline Trainer Casey O'Roarty is part of our Growing Character series on teaching children courage.
What is courage?
And how do we teach courage to our children, especially when we live in a world that reminds us painfully and all too regularly of the need for it?
These are the questions that I have been pondering over the last week, reeling in disbelief in the wake of the tragic events in Boston, wondering how something so awful could happen during an event that was meant to be such a celebration for so many people…
When my children heard about the bombing, we sat down and talked about it as a family and answered the questions they had about this unspeakably awful event. It reminded me of the sadness we had to talk about last December, after the Newtown, CT shootings, and it pained me to know that my kids had to again think about such frightening things happening in our country.
While driving with my 10-year-old daughter a day or so later, the topic of the bombing came up again, and I asked her how she was feeling about it.
“I feel so sad for all the people who were hurt. I feel so sad for their families,” she shared.
Then I asked her what she thought about the people who were responsible.“I feel sad for them, too. They must have had a really terrible life.”
There it was. No expression of hate, of anger, not even fear — just sadness.
I realized in that moment that our efforts to teach compassion to our children is in and of itself a powerful and faithful act courage. That courage is best defined as the movement we take to be our best self.
When I talk to my kids about bullies at school or about people who aren’t kind, I am often quick to point out that those bullies, those people, often come from or experience a life of pain. Children who are raised to be compassionate, even towards people who hurt them, are courageous, for it is so much easier to vent anger and judgment than to stop and consider compassionately what drives the harmful actions and behaviors of others.
“In the face of cruelty, we will choose compassion,” said President Obama at the interfaith services in Boston last week. His words echo those of Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
This is compassion. This is courage. This is the spirit we want our kids to embody.
About the Author
Casey O’Roarty is a Positive Discipline Trainer and owner of Joyful Courage, a company dedicated to training adults to create space for children to be their best selves. She is a former elementary school teacher with a master’s degree in education from the University of Washington. Casey has been sharing Positive Discipline with parents of the Skykomish Valley since 2007. She lives in Monroe, Washington, with her husband and two children, a 10-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son.