Following the internet rabbit hole this morning, which for me usually involves Digg, my blog reader, led me to a quote by someone named Alfie Kohn. This brought up a conversation I had with Ben and Sam (my 13 and 10 year old boys) last night.
Here's the quote from the book Beyond Discipline:
A child threatened with an aversive consequence for failing to comply with someone's wishes or rules is led to ask, rather mechanically, "What do they want me to do, and what happens to me if I don't do it? - a question altogether different from "What kind of person do I want to be?" or "What kind of community do we want to create?
Ben, Sam and I watched the movie Everest last night. When it was over, Sam said, "Why did you make me watch that? It was horrible!" There were tears in his eyes. The movie is tough, a true story of bad decisions and heroic acts which led to death on Mt. Everest.
When my sons watch movies, or hear stories, of real people who made the right decision even when that decision might mean their death, they learn something. In this case, there were good and bad decisions made. Some epic moments aren't worth dying for. Ultimately, somehow, this led to a discussion of what Mac and I want our boys to be.
"There are a thousand things you boys can be. So many paths to choose. But what your daddy and I want for you to be, is GOOD MEN. I want you to get to the end of your life, no matter where that life leads you, and have people say, 'He was a good man.' That is the best choice you can make."
And I named people in their lives, men, who are good men.
Ben then brought up a discussion at his last youth group meeting where they were asked about someone they looked up to. One of the leaders brought up Ben's grandmother, my mother, as someone they always looked up to. Someone who used to work with my mom, had told me earlier the same day, with tears in her eyes, how in her current job she often thinks about what my mom would have done.
We all leave marks on the world when we go, whether we have big or small circles. Our goal with our children should not be so much about encouraging them to DO better, but to BE better, inside. When our hearts are right...doing the right thing becomes a lot easier.