Welcome to Woonsocket Patch's weekly opinion column, Parents Talk. This forum is a great place to share your knowledge and experience as a Woonsocket parent. Every week, we start the conversation by asking a group of city parents to answer a question. Share your opinion in the comments below or let us know if there's a question you'd like the group to answer.
This week, we asked members of our Parents Council: What are the "words of wisdom" your parents taught you that you most want your own children to learn? What life lesson have you found to be the most important/true and how do you make sure you pass this on to your own children?
Susan Pawlina (mother of two)
When I was growing up, my mother must have said to me 100 times (and I hated it every single time,) "if so-and-so were going to jump off a bridge, would you?" She used that constantly, and it drove me nuts every time, but I have to say that statement more than anything defines who I am today. My parents never wanted any of us to be followers. They wanted us to be our own person, to take responsibility for our own actions, and to never do something just because everybody else was doing it. It made for some very rocky teenage years because as teenagers, you do want to do things because everybody else is doing it. It's called being a teenager.
As a parent , I now find myself saying those exact same words to my children, and it's met with the same kind of enthusiasm I gave it when I was a kid, but as an adult I understand the full meaning of those words don't be a follower. Do things because you want to do them. Have your own standards and have the courage to live by them. I too want my children to lead their own lives and not follow willingly behind their friends and do things just because everybody else is doing them. So now when I hear myself sound like my mother I'm actually OK with it.
Michelle Couchon, (mother of two)
My mother died when I was very young, and therefore it was my father, whom I revered until the day he died, who raised me. My father taught me nearly all of the "Street Smarts" that remain with me today. He wasn't a very successful man in the ways of the world (he suffered all his life from a gambling addiction,) but he was extremely intelligent and wise in the ways of human nature. My father taught me first and foremost how to talk to people, no matter what the situation. He was a traveling salesman, and in my early teen years I traveled with him all over America. It was during these years, on the road, that my father taught me how to communicate with others and how to talk to people. He would force me to order my own food at restaurants, ask questions of the clerks in the retail stores, and speak up to those with whom I disagreed. My father taught me to "never be afraid to speak up, or speak out." Even in the most difficult, nerve wracking, and fearful situations, my father convinced me to draw upon my inner strength and self-confidence through his words of encouragement: "You've got to be STRONG Michelle! Draw upon the strength within you!"
Those words are etched in my brain, and I use them today with my
own children. My father taught me how to talk to people; he taught me just how powerful mere words can be. I, in turn, continue to teach this lesson to my own children.
Michelle Higgins, (mother of three)
When I think of the words of wisdom my parents shared with me, there is one saying that has just stuck with me over the years and it came from my father. Growing up I was a pretty insecure girl, more so than typical, I think. I often spent way too much energy wondering who liked me and who didn't, always trying to please this one or that one. More often than not I ended up taking on the emotional baggage of others as well as my own.
When contemplating difficult social situations such as school, dances, extra curricular activities etc., my dad always would say this to me: "If you really want to know where a problem lies you can usually figure it out this way. If one or two people in the group don't like you then that's their problem, but if the majority of the people in the group don't like you then it's probably your problem." That always stuck with me and honestly, harsh as it may sound, it's pretty darn true and a good way to gauge if there's a problem with yourself that you may need to look at. On the flip side it can also help you to say, "Oh well, it's their problem not mine," and move on.
(mother of two)
There are three “pearls of wisdom” I remember my parents trying to instill in my sister, my brother, and myself. The first could be thought of as just plain old having manners, which I interpreted recently as such: “Never be too busy to say please and thank-you.” I’ve taught my children since they learned to talk how very important these words are. I can honestly say that these simple words have added many positive things to my life, and still when I use them, the results certainly bring good fortune. I still on occasion need to remind them to use them, but I for one try to never forget to use them myself. You would be surprised how these words can defuse a negative situation, bring a warm hug, or even uncover a friend for life. As children we were always aware that manners meant a great deal and they were taught not only by our parents but reinforced by our teachers and religious mentors as well.
The second words of wisdom would be: “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say it at all.” How often do we say things we wish we could take back? This is why I have tried to instill these words in my children. No one wants to be the brunt of any unkind words. As a kid, I remember hearing words that brought me to tears and whether I started it or not, it didn’t take too long for me to understand what my parents were trying to teach me. The saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,” is so untrue. How many parent’s hearts have ached when their child has come home from school or a playground with tears in their eyes and saddened by hurtful and malicious words. These emotional scars can be as devastating as the physical ones.
And last, but certainly no less important, is the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Young people today are always talking about the importance of respect. We crave it; we feel we deserve it, and of course, we need the self-pride and self-esteem that comes from the respect of your family, friends and colleagues. Well, to get respect, you have to give it as well, and sometimes that doesn’t come easily. I’m sure we all have at one time reacted to something or someone by lashing out and saying or doing something you later regret. Sometimes it is better to give the situation time and understanding before speaking. You certainly shouldn’t do or say anything you wouldn’t want done to you. If all our children (as well as all the adults) lived by the Golden Rule, what a nicer more peaceful world this would be. As parents we must set the examples for our children. These pearls of wisdom and many more have stood the test of time from our ancestors to the present and, I’m sure, for future generations as well. That is why they are called “pearls.”