It’s a question every parent has reflected on at least once: "Am I a bad parent?" Parenting is tough, and sometimes we lose our patience and regret our words or actions. You wonder if you were too tough, if you could have said something better, or if you’re a good role model.
A parent’s job is to teach their child love, compassion, and empathy. After all, you want your child to be polite and respectful to others. However, hate is also something that children can learn from their parents. No child is born hating or disregarding others because of their race, creed, or sex. When a parent sees their child acting hateful toward someone else, they may feel aghast. Many parents may blamed media and television, but parents have more influence than anyone in media will ever have.
Child experts have suggested that there are behaviors parents demonstrate that encourage children to feel superior and hateful toward others. Below are five of the most likely to have the biggest effect on young children and teens.
1. Behavior: Parents are self-centered and self-absorbed. When you show your child that what you think means more than what others think or feel, you are modeling superiority.
What your child sees: When a child watches you gossip or take selfies while sharing a meal, they begin to believe that you are more important than others. To a small child, they believe they are an extension of you so if you’re more important than others, they must be too.
2. Behavior: Parents are inflexible and don’t try to see other perspectives. When you’re willing to fight to be right with your partner or friends, you model self-righteousness and a fixation on winning.
What your child sees: Your child is learning that it doesn’t matter how others feel; it matters more that you win.
3. Behavior: Parents categorize people based on their appearance, faith, or sex. When you ignore or refuse to listen to someone who is different than you, you teach your child that they are exclusive from people who are different from them.
What your child sees: The only people worthy of your time and attention are those who look or act like you.
4. Behavior: Parents use threatening words, body language, and tones with others. When parents lose control of their anger and threaten others, they are modeling that whoever is the strongest wins an argument. They take advantage of a situation with their outrage to exert control over the powerless or weaker person.
What the child sees: When you get mad and scare the other person, you win. If the other person backs down, that’s because they are weaker than you.
5. Behavior: Parents villainize anyone who is on the "wrong side." When parents fixate on what "side" someone is on without seeing the whole person, they demonstrate polarization, which leads to hate.
What the child sees: The child is blinded to compromise and sees outsiders as enemies. They feel the need to compete to be on the "right" side.
Parents try to do the right thing and teach their children to love and care for others. It’s a complex world, and there are more than two sides to every issue in life. Teaching children begins by listening to children and to yourself. You can preach "love your neighbor" until you are blue in the face, but if you’re actions are riddled with exclusion, false accusations, threats, and humiliation so you can feel good, your children won’t hear your words. They will abide by your hateful actions.