This was originally posted by the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

“If you can’t say anything kind…don’t say anything at all.” How many of you have heard that before? It’s great advice for when you want to say what you really think or feel about something but know that it probably won’t be very encouraging or uplifting. It also seems to be advice that is extremely difficult to follow in this day and age of comments, message boards and virtual meetings. It seems to me that often rather than kindness…rudeness has become the norm. It’s a lot easier to say things that are rude, disrespectful or just plain mean when you don’t have to say it to a person’s face.

Yet, kindness and respect are two values that I hold extremely dear and that I believe can help ease so many of the things that divide us and tear us down. Now let me be clear about what I mean by kindness…kindness isn’t letting someone talk down to you or hurt you because you want to be “kind” to them. It doesn’t mean not sharing what you believe or what’s on your mind. To me kindness is thinking about how your words and actions impact those around you. It means looking for the positives you see in people and trying to find common ground. It means disagreeing respectfully and having civil conversations where you take turns listening to each other and trying to understand their worldview. Kindness means going out of your way to do something nice that builds someone up and encourages them.

We have an incredible opportunity to make a profound impact on the next generation and the worlds that our kids will inherit by treating them with love, kindness and respect. If the phrase “more is caught than taught” is also true…what does that mean for us? It means that we as parents/caregivers/grandparents need to practice what we preach and model kindness and empathy. We need to model how to give someone a compliment…how to hold our tongue when we want to say something mean…and how to treat others with respect and listen to them even when we disagree. This is our opportunity…what kind of world do you want your children to live in?

This is fatherhood…