Why I’m teaching my son to be nice
My Nan, Muriel, was the nicest human I have ever known. Don’t get me wrong, she could swear like a trooper and give you a good kick up the butt if you were misbehaving; but her heart was bigger than Phar Lap’s. She was born in the 1930s in Tasmania, in the middle of winter. One of 12 children living in a two bedroom house with a dirt floor and an open fire for cooking. Alongside her siblings, they bathed in the local river; summer and winter. Their bedding was made from stitched together recycled potato sacks.
They had nothing. But my Nan would have given you the shirt off her back if you needed it. She met my Pop, Elvin, in the 50s — he picked her up on the back of his Triumph motorcycle after she showed off a “bit of leg” (she was a cheeky bugger). They were together from that point until the day he passed away more than 60 years later. Together they worked hard, they scrimped and saved, and built a solid family home where my Mum and aunt and uncle grew up. Pop was an apple grower and Nan did whatever she could to bring home some money — they worked hard their entire lives and raised their family to be honest, modest and most importantly, ‘nice’ people.
I grew up just around the corner from Nan and Pop’s orchard, “Windridge” — the home and land was sold after the passing of both my Nan and Pop a few short years apart. The orchard ripped out to make way for who-knows-what…
Why am I telling you about my grandparents? Because they, and my Mum and Dad raised me to be a good person — a ‘nice’ person. And I think it’s an important lesson for parents to pass along to their children. There’s so much focus on being successful, achieving this, that and the other — sometimes we forget what’s truly important; the people around us, the experiences we share and the emotional connections that come from this.
We put so much emphasis on learning ABC’s and 123’s… but what about teaching manners, respect and the importance of a simple act of kindness?
Being kind and thoughtful is something innate in most kids. At a time when they’re so incredibly innocent —making up far-fetched stories about space aliens and unicorns, believing in the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa Claus — and before the world and the people in it have taught them the importance of racing, winning and ‘getting ahead’. Getting ahead of what? Of who?
We put so much emphasis on learning ABC’s and 123's when children are small; but what about teaching manners, respect and the importance of a simple act of kindness? Let’s be clear here — I’m not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination that I ‘win’ every day in my quest to reinforce manners, respect and kindness in my five-year-old son; I’m not a miracle worker! And I’m also not suggesting we raise a generation of pushovers — being nice and having strength of character are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I would argue they more often than not go hand-in-hand. I simply think that if more of us encouraged our children to be kind and just plain ‘nice’ (and lived by example), the world would be a far better place.
Being nice and having strength of character are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I would argue they more often than not go hand-in-hand.
So here are three pieces of wisdom inspired by my Nan Muriel, that I try to live every day. After all, ‘being nice’ doesn’t cost a thing and often it ends up paying for itself.
“You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
Basic good manners, a sense of humour and being thankful go a very long way. It’s the old debate of whether you should lead by fear or by example. If you want someone to help you, ask nicely. It’s kind of simple, isn’t it?
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Just because you can say it, doesn’t mean you should. (Kind of like wearing jeggings — just because you can…). If what you’re going to say doesn’t add value to the conversation, just zip your lips. Don’t be Debbie Downer; nobody likes Debbie Downer.
“It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.”
Everyone likes to feel valued and that their contribution is worthwhile — but it shouldn’t be at the expense of someone else feeling ‘less’. Sure, there are times when you may need to pull out the “no more Mr Nice Guy” routine, but maybe holster that for when it’s actually needed, and then people will really pay attention.
Sometimes the simple lessons (and biscuits) are the best.