When we think of Martin Luther King, Jr., his powerful words and his effect on our nation, we tend to think about that magical day at the national reflection pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial. We like to focus on his famous words, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.” The pictures that usually accompany the quote are of sweet looking multi-racial children holding hands and smiling. That is a dream most people share, of children getting along on the playground, being kind, not caring about skin colour or what kind of home they live in or where they eat breakfast. To that end we teach our children the Golden Rule to “treat others the way you want them to treat you”. And that works pretty well, until someone does something to your child that you don’t like and everything changes.
As parents we tell our children that they are the most special person in the world and we support those words with our actions. We give them what they want because we don’t want them to feel deprived, we back down on our expectations because we don’t want them to feel pressured or we are just too tired to focus on the goal this time, we automatically take their side in any situation without remembering that children often look at life through a me lens. And though this is understandable, it does not prepare our children for future lives as responsible citizens.
To this end, I suggest that we read Dr. King’s “Drum Major Instinct” and spend some time thinking about our personal responsibility for our own lives and those around us. And then think about how the following quote might lead us in a different direction as parents.
“We all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. … And the great issue of life is to harness the drum major instinct. It is a good instinct if you don’t distort it and pervert it. Don’t give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be the first in love. I want you to be the first in moral excellence. I want you to be the first in generosity.” (given as a sermon in Atlanta, Georgia on February 4, 1968)
The first part of this quote describes the personality and presence of almost every four year old child in America, full of the confidence that they can take on any challenge and come out on top. But like Dr. King told us, it is not just being first, it is how and why we are first that matters and it is what we do with first place that makes the difference.
The future is being designed right now in homes all over America. What we teach our children is what will guide the world in 30 years. How are you building the future in your family? Share your ideas with us…