Would I rather have my kids be kind-hearted and sensitive or tough and relentless?
I think about these types of questions when outcomes don’t go the way I’d like – particularly if I start to worry about the potential impact on my children.
In the aftermath of November’s election, I’m find myself, again, thinking about such questions.
The election didn’t go as I’d hoped – and, candidly, I’m disappointed with the outcome. But, I am moving on because that is what agreeable, nice-guy, push-overs like me do. I’ve chosen to focus on the pieces of my life that my overly sensitive mentality feels better about.
A tougher, more relentless person might want to put up an elongated fight – rejecting the outcome, calling for an overhaul of the system and joining the protests led by those with more conviction than I tend to have.
I can respect, but not relate to, that toughness. I’ve conceded.
In typical Good-Bad Dad fashion, I’m not sure if I’m doing right by my children.
What are they learning about their father by me having moved on?
My swift concession could teach them humility. They might learn that every person deserves a chance. Maybe my kids watch my actions and learn about sportsmanship – that shaking your opponent’s hand is important no matter the outcome or how bitter the fight.
Or, they might not like what they see in their dad.
My kids could see a coward – someone who folded up his tent when the decision was rendered. They’d see through my outward smile and agreeable disposition to my conflicted soul, and be able to rightfully call me a quitter.
The results of the election has me staring, face-to-face, with the most difficult part of parenting – teaching my children to be strong in a quality of personal weakness.
For me, that weakness is toughness.
I’m realizing that it will be important for my kids to be tougher than me.
Their competition for anything – jobs, scholarships, resources – will be global. They will have to be tough enough to stand out in a very crowded field.
Many of their relationships will be virtual – bound not by interpersonal skills, but connected via stats and data. My kids will work in a “don’t take it personally” world that I would struggle with.
My kids’ will have access to everything – making the ability to be noticed based more on a spectacle and less on simply doing the right thing. My kids need to be tough enough to understand the difference between significance and notoriety.
I will forever worry about my tender-hearted children in this new world. The election may have spawned that worry, but it is bigger than President Trump.
Going back to the question I started with: Would I rather have my kids be kind-hearted and sensitive or tough and relentless?
I want my kids to be kind while principle-centered.
They should be as tough as they need to be in order to carve out a fulfilling life for themselves.
Teaching my kids to be tough enough is not innate to me – it will require steady work. Just as my need to worry about the lessons my kids are learning from me should not wait for any disappointing result – an election, a crushing defeat on the field or anything else.
Even a sensitive, push-over dad like me is tough enough to face that reality.