I believe it’s forgotten, more often than not, that children, at a very young age, develop a world view too.
However, we need to understand and realize how they came to the views they have, and what it is they’re experiencing that may have influenced it. We also tend to overlook how their world view may influence their choices, judgments, and decision making as they grow older and become parents themselves.
We forget to consider what exactly is influencing them, at their developmental stages. Perhaps because children can be such a handful at time, we find ourselves challenged just trying to keep up with them, while also balancing the many responsibilities of our own lives. We can overlook such a thing, but know that this oversight can have very negative long term consequences when it comes to their world view.
When I first moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco to go to school, I was one BROKE student who had to depend on the 99 Cent Store to survive. One day, while trying to figure out what necessities I could afford to do without a little longer, I overheard two ladies talking. Apparently they were friends who had just ran into each other, and one of them had a little boy with her. He was about seven or eight.
What caught my attention first was the insistent flow of profanity that was spewing from this woman’s mouth! I had never heard anything like it. Now I admit that I can talk like a sailor when I’m not teaching or in the presence of children, but this woman off the hook and wasn’t even trying to consider her child. From the look on his face, she rarely did. Anyway this lady had a real situation that she wanted to complain to her friend about. But I was focused on the boy. I’ll never forget the look on his face nor his demeanor, especially for his age. It was something I had never seen before, at least in a child. He head was down looking at the floor with a disgusted resignation of “here we go again” on it. He looked like this was common and he really hated it. I could tell he had enough of it, but was powerless to do anything about it, with a realization that he wouldn’t be in a position to have any choice about it for quite a very long time.
He wanted to sit down, but there was a problem; he had no place to sit. So the kid elected without any care or regard, and with complete disrespect for what didn’t belong to him, to sit right on top the merchandise. Bear in mind the items he had decided to take a seat on weren’t exactly built to last and could easily be broken.
Just then an employee happened by. The man saw the kid sitting on the goods, while the mother was completely immersed in her profane tirade, completely oblivious to whatever else was going on around her. I heard the man ask the kid with great respect, “Please don’t sit on the merchandise.” The boy, without even looking up or changing his expression replied, “Man, why don’t you just shut up.”
I was stunned! I realized the boy would probably never think to utter those words to his mother, but in his mind, any other adult was fair game. The boy was devoid of any semblance of respect to this man and didn’t care whatsoever. I then looked at the man and noticed that he was just as shocked as I was. It seemed he couldn’t believe his ears. So he repeated himself, and again asked the child politely to please not sit on the merchandise. This time the boy, still looking down, said, “Man, I thought I told you to shut up!” With that the mother turned around and saw her son sitting on the store items and said, “STAND THE HELL UP! WHAT THE HELL’S THE MATTER WITH YOU!” The boy stood up, but again, he never looked up and his demeanor of disgust never wavered.
What do you think this boy’s world view was at that time and why? What kind of influences would have the kind of impact on a child to result in such a negative mentality? What kind of fruit do you think will bear from the kind of seeds that were being planted in his mind that that young age? Don’t forget, at such a young age, this kid has only begun to become self-aware. He still had a whole lot of years ahead of him of being told what to do and when to do it. Now couple that with the complete disregard as to how it may influence his mentality or world view as he gets older.
That particular event happened around 1985. So what kind of person do you think he may be now? How is HE influencing others? Does he have any children now? Do you think he might be a patient, kind, nurturing and loving father? I would venture to guess he that didn’t seem to have a whole lot of experience or reference to what a true loving nurturing relationship even was, which only leaves me to wonder how his own kids would turn out.
I left that store feeling so sad for him. True, a part of me wanted to kick him in the ass myself, just for being so blatantly disrespectful to others. But then again, I was far, far more concerned and sad knowing there was nothing I could do to help this kid and protect him.
I understand that this was an isolated incident. But was it really? How many of us knew kids on the playground who were plainly troubled, and had real issues they were trying to deal with themselves? Chances are, this was a regular occurrence.
This incident still haunts me to his day. I find that it always seems to rear its ugly head whenever I find myself becoming aware of situations/circumstances that we as adults may become so caught up in, especially when these occurrences are “newsworthy” and are discussed openly in front of children, evoking opinion and disagreement. We may be having the discussion amongst ourselves as adults, but how often do we take into account who is within earshot?
I believe we all know that little kids have BIG EARS. However, we may not think they would be interested or listening, and maybe they don’t mean to hear us. Perhaps they seem more focused on what they’re doing at the time, without any interest or regard to what we may be taking about. First of all, I can tell you from working with kids that they listen a lot more than we give them credit for. Also, even if they may not be listening consciously, they’re hearing us subconsciously. Children are constantly being exposed to things they don’t completely understand. So what do they do? Do they go to an adult and ask for an explanation? OR do they go to a fellow kid their age and try and figure it out for themselves. I remember doing that. Don’t you? When we did, we would just compare what we heard in our own house, often adopting our parents argument to whatever situation was so as to appear more worldly, knowledgeable and “grown up.”
I feel strongly that it is important for us to be aware of this, especially given our current polarizing political climate. Regardless of what side you personally identify with, the polarity consuming our country today is having an influence on our children. For the first time, I have noticed something quite different. This time our children are drawing conclusions for themselves DESPITE what we may be saying. That’s because now what is being said is having a direct and tangible influence on them directly and in real time and they believe they are all not safe anymore. In all my years of teaching kids, I have never heard such strong and sound opinions coming out of the mouths of children, at a far younger age, than ever before. I am referring to elementary school kids, and I can tell you that what is coming out of these children’s mouths are based on experiences they have witnessed firsthand.
We have to be more conscientious of not just how we act and what we say around children, but also of their experience. Talk to them. Ask them why they came to the conclusions they have come to. That’s a question that goes overlooked far too frequently. Because it is those conclusions and influences that become indelible to their way of thinking. There are seeds being planted in their minds that none of us may be aware of that could intrinsically affect their world view for the rest of their lives, and determine the kind of people they become.
It is up to us to see to it that we pay attention to how current influences are molding our children’s worldview and mentalities. We need to explain things to them in and objective manner without talking down to them. We need to have honest conversations, with true and respectful give-and-take, with consideration and without judgement. As they say, talk to them and not at them. And above all, know when to listen! Only then should you try to explain as clearly, openly and without judgement where you stand and why. Please believe me, this will open up new channels of communication for you both if they know that you will listen with respect and without judgment. It is my fervent wish, if you follow these simple guidelines, that you will create a bond with your child and enjoy an open avenue of communication like you have never had with them before.