We have a hard rule in our house; you can’t say you dislike anything until you have tried it. Yes, it helps us to get the kids to eat their vegetables at dinner (there are some vegetables that are not served in our house, but it is because we have at least tried them), but the rule stands also for other issues. From Justin Beiber to reading The Chronicles of Narnia. We don’t let the kids just spat out other peoples’ opinions. Or to just dismiss something without at least knowing something about it so that they can form their own opinion.
This approach isn’t always easy, even as elementary students the playground conversation can get negative and degrading. I am amazed at times with the negative opinions my children express at the dinner table and the range of topics these opinions cover, from songs about Barney the Dinosaur (not happy songs!) to political issues. With just a couple of questions, I discover that the opinion comes from the playground. My wife and I then lead the discussion for them to express what they know of the topic. We help them to formulate what their opinion is based off what they actually know. Other times, sadly, we have to simply say, no that is not appropriate. Usually with songs they learn, but it still expresses an opinion.
As a dad, this saddens me in a number of ways. I actually enjoy helping them learn about the world. To discuss issues, to question them and yes, sometimes I over analyze things (did you know how many different themes are present in Disney’s Beauty and The Beast?). But when did this all become so negative? What is wrong with liking something? Why do we have to fight so hard to have our own ideas?
Why is our first reaction to something negative? As an English teacher this attitude is almost a cliché.
“I hate reading.”
“I hate poetry.”
“I hate English.”
I have no problem when a student says they dislike a poem, after they have read it. In fact, it means the poem actually affected them and gives me something to discuss with them.
What sadness me the most, and not just for my kids but for my students too, is the lost opportunities because of this attitude. The depth of our life is not created by others’ attitudes but through our experiences. And those experiences have to be both positive and negative. Those opposites give us the parameters to build our own views. To make this life our own.