Earlier today over a fried green tomato sandwich (yes, I live in the South), my close colleague brought up a topic. She’s been observing other parents in the neighborhood “talking trash” in front of their children. I had to think about it. As a practicing Tibetan Buddhist one of the sacred vows is not to gossip. I take that vow seriously. Granted, I am not perfect but I strongly believe in the power of positive talk to influence a child’s healthy development.
And I know firsthand how much negative talk or gossip and well-intentioned but wrong words can hurt. So we explored this topic together and agreed that many parents without much forethought talk poorly about:
– Teachers at School
– Other Kids
– Family Members
– Authority Members (Priests, Rabbis, Neighbors)
Imagine a child that goes to school but has a parent talk poorly about their teacher – how can Little Lucy develop respect, confidence, trust and belief in their teacher now? The voice of their parents is one of the most influential components of their development. It trumps everything.
So we agreed that not gossiping about others is essential to positive parenting. It is actually a cornerstone of raising kids to care, feel compassion for others, and develop their own judgment, sound social skills and a true understanding of when it is skillful to speak.
Learning to use your speech and the power of your voice as sacred is an important lesson. It becomes even more important when you are raising a child to become a person of character, credibility, honesty and discernment so you can teach your child to look at others positively and through a skillful lens.
You see, gossip or “trash talk” teaches your child that:
· What you say doesn’t matter
· Words don’t have power
· Speaking behind someone’s back is okay
· Your speech doesn’t have consequences
· It’s okay to spread rumors, insult or judge
All of this is not somewhat incorrect – it is totally wrong. Words do matter. Wars have been fought over them. Gossiping doesn’t feel truly good for the person doing it nor does it feel good when the person gossiped about finds out (and they often do!). Becoming a parent that is a role model of “right speech” is helpful in raising a child that develops an honest character and reputation that others can respect.
Buddhists call it karma. Kids understand the idea of a boomerang. What goes around comes around. It really is the law of cause and effect that helps most people curb their habit of gossiping. I mean no one on the planet wants to be gossiped about? And if you gossip about others, say poor things or talk trash and be unkind – it’s likely that exact experience will be returned to you sooner or later.
Wouldn’t you want a boomerang of kindness, generosity and positive words to come your way? Then that as a parent is what you’ll need to be growing, sending out your mouth and watch returned to you. And isn’t now the best time to try it?
© 2009 by Maureen Healy
Growing Happy Kids
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