The definition of humanity is the state of being human; more specifically, of being kind to others. When we think of humanity, we think of marches or movements or platforms that further the case of equality. These have been a great way to bring attention to issues and be a catalyst for change.
But what really changes people? Where do people learn most how to treat others?
According to a quote by William Temple: “The most influential of all educational factors is the conversation in a child’s home.”
We form our values, beliefs, and ideas about the world when we are children. Sure, those things can change as we age and eventually leave home and have different experiences. But those core values and things we know and believe about life and people we learn when we are growing up stay with us long after we leave home.
If you think about how much time a child spends at home—all the summers, after schools, mornings, evenings, weekends—they spend more time at home than any other place. And it’s there that they learn the most, from the people who love them the most—their parents.
Yes, it’s parents who are responsible for teaching basic humanity to the next generation. For our parents are who taught us, right?
Parents: Our Ultimate Role Models
As Bob Keeshan said: “Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement, and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent.”
In a marriage, when two people decide to have children, typically pregnancy follows. It’s really the first step in what will ultimately change their lives. No couple really knows what to fully expect; they are full of hopes and dreams for their future lives and for the lives of their children.
What comes next is nothing short of amazing, exhausting, and life-changing. In the words of Angela Kinsey: “Parenthood is such a lesson in self-sacrifice.” They feed, clothe, soothe, teach, cuddle, and guide them, from the time the child is born even until after they leave home. Truly, parents are giving people even just for the choice to become parents. But in the act of actually becoming parents, they also change. They are showing their own humanity by giving of themselves to their children.
Parents: The Biggest Influencers
Parents are a huge influence on a child’s beliefs and choices in so many things: how they eat, their success in school, what they wear, where they live and what friends they may end up having, and so much more. Along with that, parents also influence how children view other people and ultimately treat people.
Think of the mother who cares for an elderly parent or is involved in the PTA or organizing the canned food drive. Think of the father who helps a neighbour build a fence, a co-worker move, or runs a 5k to support cancer research. All along the way, their children are watching them and noticing what is important to their parents. Maybe they are even involved in the activities with them.
As their parents serve others, the children learn how important it is. They see how it can bring joy to them as well as to the person they are serving. Perhaps then they replicate that kindness to others. On the playground, in their neighbourhood, in their homes.
Our homes are like a miniature world. It is a great place for children to practice kindness on their family and then carry it out into their communities. As children learn how kindness affects their parents and siblings in their home, they realize what an influence they can have on others. They see how being kind changes those around them and even themselves.
The Job of Parenthood
Of course, parenthood and children are not without difficulty. We are all human. Children naturally defy parents, are mean to siblings, and act unkind. That is why we need parents who, day in and day out, teach their children how to behave and what is most important. It takes patience and endurance to do the job of parenthood. But it is in those quiet moments in the home that parents do their greatest work to contribute to humanity.
If every parent could do such work—teach the value of human life, of equality, of love and kindness—think of how the world could change, one home at a time, one child at a time. It could spread from coast to coast, from country to country. Our kindness and humanity could truly go worldwide.
“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength,” said Maya Angelou. How true that is, and what a blessing parents can be to humanity.
Malini Bhatia is the founder of Marriage.com, a website dedicated to providing value in every marriage. Marriage.com provides resources, information, and a community that supports healthy, happy marriages. Malini has global experience in international management and communications, and lives in Los Angeles with her husband of 11 years and two daughters.