Civility 101

School days are here again. When school teachers ask for help today, many are really wanting to know how mentally and emotionally to survive the day. In some cases, knowing the subject matter is secondary to managing crowd control. A friend of ours works across the street from a “last stop” high school for kids who have been booted out of their original school. It is not uncommon, she says, to see police cars pull up en masse and escort students outside and into their patrol cars. Area residents are so accustomed to the wailing sirens, they hardly pay any attention. It is still jarring, however, to those people who work in the inner city and then go home to a more serene environment.

Not civics—civility

This particular school leans toward the extreme but many schools and teachers deal with kids who are out of control. We’re not sure that any school in the nation will ever require students to take a course in civility. Not civics. Civility. But we think it would be a good idea. We are not a civil society these days. We have replaced conversation with confrontation. In many cases, violence is the first resort. And it’s not a question of teaching morals. It goes more deeply than that. It’s a matter of values.

Our values define us

A value is an intangible ideal that we personify by the way we live and conduct ourselves in society. If we hold sacred the value that every human being deserves respect, then we wouldn’t think of hurting another person by our words or actions. Respect for all of human life is a value, one that serves as a cornerstone for morality. We respect others’ property as if it were our own. We realize how much money and/or effort it took for us to acquire those things that we hold dear; therefore, we would not steal from someone else. Respecting what others have invested in their own lives—tangible and intangible—is a value.

Civility ought to be part of the curriculum in public, private and home schools. (How about a section in Driver’s Ed?) So much of what we see and hear in the news and through entertainment venues reflects very little regard for human life and dignity. A popular bumper sticker reads: “You keep honking … I’ll keep reloading.” These days the way to solve disputes or even minor disagreements is to use abusive language, throw a punch, or all too often, pull a trigger.

Kindness—what a concept!

Dad, teach your son that there is nothing manly about being a brute. Being loud and pushy and aggressive doesn’t show strength. It shows insecurity and weakness. Dad, teach your daughter that the qualities that exemplify a lady are those that will last a lifetime and carry over to others. Tell your kids to look for role models who receive humanitarian awards, study abroad, read books to children and the elderly—who treat other people with respect and kindness.

We need an app for civility.

By dads2dads

The Importance Of “I Love You”

Tom’s dad was not a demonstrative man. He seldom showed his emotions, and when he did, it was restrained and even awkward. He wasn’t much of a hugger. Likewise, it was not often that he mustered an “I love you.” Words and gestures of affection just didn’t come easily to him. It was his sense of humor and appreciation for the practical joke that humanized him. But still, as a teenager, there were many times when Tom wasn’t quite sure how his dad felt about him.

As Tom’s dad grew older, he became more comfortable with his feelings. Phone calls ended with the more corporate (and comfortable) “We love you.” Then, gradually, a more personal “I love you.” Over time, it became easier to say, and they said it often. And frequently on visits, instead of shaking hands, they hugged.

Experiencing The Discomfort

As dads, we wrestle with the same difficulty. It’s sometimes hard to say “I love you” to our children. Well … let’s back up. It’s easy to say those words to children when they are walking on unsteady legs and sticking their fingers in your ear. As they approach adolescence and enter their teenage years, it’s as if the words catch in our throats. What was once easy to say to an infant can become extremely difficult to say to an ornery, obstinate, sometimes downright rude teenager.

Do we love our 16-year-old daughter any less than our 3-year-old? We don’t think so. Suddenly, however, there is greater risk in saying those words when they are going to be returned not with a giggle but with sullen silence. In trying to express our feelings to our teens, should their expected response matter? Absolutely not. Does it matter? Probably.

Understanding The Need

As we grow older, the risk of love becomes a little less — along with the awkwardness and perhaps the embarrassment. We all go through stages of doubt and uncertainty, and there is room for maturity no matter how old we are.

So, dad, say it early and often. “I love you.” Stop your teenagers in their tracks and remind them of that. Look them in the eye and mean it. Blow their minds and hug them. If this comes easily to some of you dads out there, then you won’t understand why it doesn’t for others of us. That’s OK. Our struggles are not all the same.

If your teenager demands his or her space, back off a little. In return, demand your own space and invite your teenager to share it. If he or she rebuffs your offer, make another offer and another. Nothing says “I love you” more than wanting to share your space, your time, a slice of your life with someone else.

Dad, be the grownup here. If you haven’t told your teenager lately how much you love him or her, do it right now. You may get a funny look, a smirk, even one of those annoying eye rolls — but your son or daughter will remember it.

It will matter.

By dads2dads