When I was four, I walked into my kindergarten classroom and started calling Bush a dick. My teachers were shocked and the other toddlers looked at me in awe for saying bad words; but my parents were proud. Don’t get me wrong, they were not proud of my bad mouth, but instead, of my strong will. I, for reasons I cannot sadly recall, thought that someone else was at fault and I found nothing wrong with voicing that.

I had no fear of speaking my mind; and that’s Parenting 101 for you.

Theoretically, your job as a parent is to provide your kids with a home, food, and basic care –and that all ends when they turn eighteen. I know that most of you think that whoever acts this way should not be a parent; and I agree with you. The problem is, most of us are -or will become- that way without even realizing it. We’ll have kids, take care of them, make sure they stay out of trouble, and, when they leave our house, suddenly, we’ll feel like our job is done.

But you’re forgetting the most important thing a parent has to do: Raise children that will speak their mind.

As a parent, you are your kids’ role-model. Your children will want to be everything you are and, especially when they’re young, they will mimic your ways. If you never say what’s on your mind, and you swallow insults like aspirins, your kids will follow that example.

So many children fall victim of bullying and abuse, because they’re afraid, because no one taught them how to speak up; because they don’t know how to deal with injustice against them. Voiceless children will grow up thinking it’s ok to be mistreated –it’s ok to let other people take advantage of you. They’ll become passive citizens and they will never take action.

But that’s unfair, isn’t it? You’re forging your child’s personality based on your own fears and insecurities. You’re passing on the trait of being afraid. Of course, you can’t go around throwing insults right and left, and, yes, sometimes you have to keep quiet to avoid a bigger argument. But if you’re keeping your mouth shut when you face injustice, when you lower your eyes in the face of exploitation, when you never do anything about racism, you are a coward.

You’re afraid of what people will think or of the consequences your actions have. You think doing nothing will keep you safe; but inaction has its consequences too. The biggest one is that your children, the ones you’re supposed to love more than anyone, will turn out to be voiceless. They will not know how to express themselves; they won’t know how to point out to something that’s wrong.

Empower your children. Some kids tend to think that if they speak their mind they’ll be viewed as smart-alecks or get scolded by a teacher. They think that if their opinion is different they’ll be excluded from a social circle and some kids are just shy.

But you, as a parent, you have the power to change that. Teach them how to speak their mind freely. That doesn’t mean you’ll show them how to be rude or hurtful; it means they’ll learn how to express themselves without hurting anyone else.

Let your children know that even though sometimes you feel uncomfortable, it’s always best to stand up for yourself and your rights. Show them that they’ll have to defend their views even if they’re unpopular. Let them voice their opinions at home and make sure they know that their thoughts and feelings matter. Every parent wants their children happy and content; they want them to have a bright future without many hardships. You can’t always protect them from the terrors of the world but you can give them the biggest weapon.

You can give them a voice.

Author: Matina Tsouma

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