I am currently reading the book, UnSelfie by Michele Borba, Ed.D. The book gives some great tips on how to build the Empathy Advantage. Kids with an Empathy Advantage are more popular, achieve higher in school and are happier in an all-about-me, selfie-taking world.
One of the suggestions in the book is to have a family motto. A family motto is a short message that defines the family's values. When in a situation, children can site their family motto (in their head) and gauge if the activity is something that fits their values. Having a motto and helping kids see themselves as caring, moral people is a step towards greater success and happiness.
This made me think of my own childhood and upbringing. Did I have a family motto? After some thought, I could hear my mom's voice loud and clear. "People are people," she would say "and you treat them with respect." My mom was a special education teacher and then later, after having kids, she became a first grade teacher.
Of course our understanding of "people are people" had much to do with my brother, John. John was labeled with severe mental retardation (at least in the 70's that was the term) and he was unable to communicate, walk, eat, and move on his own. I learned first hand that "people are people" even if they don't eat, move or talk like myself. I also learned the world isn't always kind or thoughtful to people with disabilities.
Whether my mother and father planned it or not, "people are people" has ALWAYS stuck with me and it is a part of me. Of course, my brother has profoundly changed my life as well. Now as a teacher, any child in my classroom is welcome and I strive to make sure the activities we do in music are inclusive for all. It is a passion of mine to treat everyone with respect and it profoundly saddens me when teachers shy away or flat out say they don't know what to do with children with special needs. People are people.
So now I wonder as a mother and wife, what message will my husband and I pass on to our children? Our children are 8 and 13 years old. It's still not too late to be mindful of our message. We have 5 more years with our son at home (gasp) and 10 more years with our daughter. Andrew has the most beautiful, thoughtful heart. He is very sweet to his family and friends (when hormones are in check). Hope is a free spirit, loves life and tries almost anything. She is super creative and very funny. We love them both and want them to have a solid moral identify as well. Life is going to throw them some curveballs and we want them to have a strong moral identity that will lead them to success and happiness.
What will the Finch family motto be? I don't know yet. I have plans to sit the family down and create a motto soon. Stay tuned.
Do you have a family motto? If so, would you be willing to share?