As a parent trying to help mold the character of your child is difficult when the characteristics you hope to instill in your child are contradicted by society. Accountability, Responsibility, and Integrity are often the key characteristics that a parent hopes to serve as the foundation for their child’s true character. The biggest challenge in the development of a child is overcoming the child’s observation of bad behavior being rewarded.
Throughout our lives we constantly witness bad behaviors being rewarded. It can occur in the workplace, observed among friend or even occur within the family. It typically involves manipulation, lies, rudeness, meanness or just plan to cheat – virtually anything it takes to achieve what the individual wants. Nonetheless, it is one of the harsh realities of life – bad behavior is often rewarded (and frequently at the expense of others).
So the million dollar question………..how exactly to manage/respond to bad behavior? How does one avoid situations which may tempt bad behavior? Friendships are probably the easiest area to eliminate potential situations. The old say….”Birds of a feather flock together” would be appropriate. Surround yourself with friends of a similar moral foundation and eliminate friendships with individuals who exhibit bad behaviors only for their own selfish benefit.
With that said, managing situations among co-workers or family member is much more challenging. Needless to say, it is difficult to eliminate a co-worker and impossible to eliminate a family member. Therefore the situations and emotions must be managed to the best of one’s ability. However, exposure and/or time spent with the individuals should be managed to a minimum.
There is a sense of pride in a parent when they witness their child mature from their youth and into adulthood. Typically this transition is witnessed in the form of an event – whether it is an event that they personally are involved or one that they witness from afar. But, regardless of their intimate involvement in the situation their perception of the bad behavior is one of disappointment or disgust.
I recently witnessed such a moment with my son which made me a very proud man. Although I was proud, it quickly became evident that this was a teachable moment. The situation my son observed resulted in all of the appropriate emotions – frustration, disbelief, sadness, and anger. He saw pain being inflicted as well as the significant reward being received by those inflicting the pain. He felt the uncontrollable need to thrust himself into the situation. Fortunately, we had a conversation before he acted on his impulse.
The first question I asked was what value would be gained by him thrusting himself into the situation. His response was to project the truth and potentially eliminate an ill-gotten gain. I asked him to then think about the fallout of his actions and if the people he was most trying to protect would truly benefit from his actions long-term. Since he was not 100% absolutely sure, the best course of action was to take no action.
Needless to say, he remained frustrated an unsure. He then bluntly asked; what is the right thing to do. I explained that the right thing in life is often the most difficult…….you do nothing. I explained that he’s not alone (and it is always painful to watch from afar a loved one being taken advantage of), but there is only one thing you do……you do nothing in this particular situation. There would be no value added to anyone in speaking the truth of an observer. It may create frustration, bring you pain, and even break your heart. So what do you do??? You take the pain, absorb the heartache, and manage the frustrations…………. and ultimately when the loved ones objectively realize that they were victimized, you are there to support them unconditionally.
It may appear in life that bad behaviors are rewarded, but make no mistake. Good behaviors too are rewarded (even if not immediately apparent) and good behaviors don’t come with later consequences.
photography by Janet Arnold
Husband, father, coffee connoisseur and lover of all things hockey. At 51 I sometimes wonder have I done enough. I have been married to my best friend for 30 years. She knows all my faults and loves me anyway, As a father of “almost always” perfect boys, I am always surprised at what life has to offer. It is messy, scary, thrilling, and always fun.