Children can be cruel, especially to anyone who is different. I’m sure we all remember children from school that were bullied and picked on because they were different. Maybe some of us were even one of these children, subjected go torment and ridicule by others. Or maybe we were one of those who joined with the crowd in teasing the child who was perceived as different.
As parents we need to teach our children what is acceptable behavior and what is not, e.g. many parents have to deal with a child who bites other children or hits them or kicks or is cruel with their words and teasing. Sometimes the way we behave can influence others into improving their behavior. Take the case of Brenan O’Keefe.
A story by Katrina Dal Molin in the The Shoalhaven and Nowra News – on January 31, 2008, told of Brenan who was born with Down Syndrome. Bad enough you’d think. But then when he was eighteen months old he contracted a virus which left him a quadriplegic. But with the help of his father, this nine year old, is playing touch football. Football? How can that be?
His father Pat has, in one capacity or another, been involved playing and coaching football and he wanted to see his son be able to play. More importantly he wanted to see Brenan accepted by others. He approached Culburra club, where he used to coach and they agreed to give his plan a try.
The only way Brenan can participate in the game is if his father pushes the wheelchair with him in it. And what has been the response from others in the team? According to his father, Pat, this has worked exceptionally well. The other children really want Brenan there. The kids encourage Brenan and are comfortable having him as part of the team. Such is his involvement that in the four games Brenan has played, ‘he has already been named player of the match once.’
What is this father and Brenan teaching people in this community by their attitude? They are teaching acceptance and inclusion rather than highlighting the differences.
But children, and adults as well, will not learn about tolerance and acceptance unless they see it modeled.
It’s easy to be unkind. It’s the harder option to be kind and accepting especially of those who are different. But when it does happen this way, we are showing the love of Jesus who accepted everyone regardless of who they were. What are your children, grandchildren or neighborhood children learning from you? Are they learning to be cruel and dismissive of others? Or are they learning to be kind and accepting?
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