What's so important about the Golden Rule, and does it apply to our children?
Updated: Nov 5, 2018
Most of us have heard the Golden Rule a hundred times in our lifetime, if not more.
Most parents and teachers I get the opportunity to talk with about their teaching or parenting philosophies will bring this up as a staple of how they instruct their children to live life and interact with others.
Almost everyone I know thinks the Golden Rule is true and believes if we all lived this way the world would be a much better place. However, I find it very difficult to live up to this standard and I don’t interact with many people who feel they live this way consistently.
Think about it for a moment, “Do to others as you would have them do to you”, or more commonly translated as “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” If we are honest with ourselves most of us actually do quite the opposite, we tend to go through life treating people the way they are treating us. I find this particularly true when it comes to parenting and marriage, probably because those two areas are so personal.
What I find even more interesting is how many people do not even think about their children in light of the Golden Rule, almost as if because they are small and weak the Golden Rule doesn’t actually apply. I would propose that is exactly why it needs to apply, because our children are small, weak, vulnerable, and hungry for direction.
What I have noticed is that people may do their best to interact with a customer, a coworker, or a friend intentionally thinking about how they would like to be treated and then do their best to engage the person from that premise.
They will evaluate their anger or frustration towards the other person and give them the benefit of the doubt because internally they know that is what they would want done to them. They may purposefully try not to yell and get physical with the other person because that would be considered disrespectful, and they definitely don’t want to be treated in the same manner. Once again though I find it interesting how little I see this same type of thinking applied to children.
How different would my parenting be if, before I spoke to my children out of frustration or anger, I stopped and thought about how I would want to be spoken to in this situation?
If I screwed up at work, how would I want my boss to respond to me? Would yelling, sarcasm, and possibly some insults get the best out of me, or would I feel disrespected, disconnected, discouraged, and angry at my boss?
Since I have small children, I have on occasion, when they were not doing what I asked them to do and throwing a fit, taken it upon myself to physically pick them up against their will and make them go where I want them to go simply because I am bigger, stronger, and I can.
This was not done out of a concern for their safety but as a result of my own frustration and anger building at their lack of obedience. I was always surprised how much my children didn’t like being forcefully picked up like this and would kick, scream, and tell me to put them down.
If I am honest with myself, I would probably respond the same way if another person forcefully moved me simply because they might be bigger and stronger. I think I would feel powerless, disrespected, and angry.
I must ask myself am I modeling to my children the Golden Rule? Am I on a daily basis treating my children and my spouse the way I want to be treated or do I spend most of my time treating people the way they are treating me?
When my child is being disrespectful to me, do I respond to them with disrespect or do I offer them respect, modeling to them how I want to be treated? When they hurt me with their words or actions, do I try to get them back by hurting them with my words and actions, or do I treat them calmly and politely showing them how I want to be spoken too?
I know in most of these cases I have definitely not followed the Golden Rule, but I have felt the difference when I have. Those instances have been such profound teaching moments for both me and my children.
It is my goal to live a life with the Golden Rule as a centerpiece. I want to model integrity to those around me, especially my wife and my kids, by consistently treating them the way I want to be treated.
I would just challenge you to notice and be aware of your responses to people, especially those closest to you, over these next few weeks and take note of who is really controlling your behavior. Are you allowing those around you to dictate how you act throughout the day, or are you taking control of your behavior by intentionally treating people the way you want to be treated?
Our kids and our families need to see us model this because it is so hard to live it out and it can be so unnatural at times. Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we actually lived the Golden Rule on a daily basis with everyone we came in contact with?
What a world that would be, and what families we would have!
Good luck on your journey.