Don't we all know someone that knows something about everyone? These are the folks that must spend every waking hour prospecting for negative information about other people. They do not observe any statute of limitation; the incident may have occurred hours or decades earlier. They know the lowest moments in other people's lives and seem to revel in reminding everyone about these forgettable periods that almost everyone experiences.
It wouldn't be difficult to understand that a child reared in a home with venom in such abundance would turn out to be an unhappy or friendless young person at the least or at worst, another toxic and hypercritical adult. Conversely, children that live with caretakers who are tolerant and not judgmental of others, often help to create children and then adults that are more altruistic and capable of tolerance and kindness.
Parents can easily model kindness and tolerance of others. Let children become personally responsible for their own charitable acts. For example, if your children donate to a charity like the SPCA, let them put their name on the bag of dog food. Don't reward helping behavior with gifts or other external rewards. Instead, offer verbal praise and let the intrinsic reward embedded in being kind be the reward that the child experiences. There is some evidence that giving children gifts for acts of kindness actually reduces their tendency to be kind.
When parents exude positive energy, children pick up on it, including the way discipline is metered out. If there is excessive yelling, threatening and spanking, children may learn that when problems arise, it is a cue to become anxious or angry, often accompanied by yelling, threatening or hitting. Reasoning things out as calmly as possible may make your child a more caring, compassionate and less anxious adult.
Adults that calmly reason problems out often achieve better outcomes for themselves and for those around them. In the process, they are also modeling an adaptive behavior that can be well utilized by their children. Maybe my old Sunday school teacher had it right: "We cannot hold a torch to light another's way without brightening our own."Remember, all kids count.
Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org