All of the knowledge I needed to acquire, I acquired in my first year of formal education.
I had a much catchier first line for this post, but someone else copyrighted it. Stupid bastard.
Which brings me to my first lesson, incidentally!
1) Don’t call people names.
When you call people mean names, it hurts their feelings. And when their feelings are hurt, they are a lot less likely to listen to anything else you have to say. Making fun of someone’s size, calling them dishonest, or pulling a reference from an Elton John song all have the potential to make people mad and cause big problems for you!
Some people will even get so mad that they’ll do hurtful things back to you, like hit you or throw things at you. Things like rocks, or sticks, or ICBM’s.
If you want to have the best chance of making friends and having a good day, every day, it’s better to only call people by what they want to be called! That way, they’re not only more likely to listen to you and respect you, but they’re also less likely to try to hurt you!
2) Don’t judge a book by its cover.
People come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and that’s part of what makes the world beautiful! You can be tall or short, have light skin or dark skin, speak any language, be from any country, and none of that has anything to do with your value as a person! Your value as a person comes from simply being alive and doing your best to be a good person every day.
Now, what if you were treated badly by a person with blonde, wispy, toupee-like hair? Should you be mad at every boy and girl on the whole planet who has blonde, wispy, toupee-like hair? Of course not!
But you’ll find that people seem to do just that. Some people will take an example of one person from another country doing something bad, and they’ll try to make you believe that everyone from that country is bad…like they are rapists, murderers, drug dealers, or judges who can’t fairly try cases.
You know better! When you hear someone doing this, be sure to stand up for what you know to be right: every boy and girl on this planet is an individual, and it’s wrong to make assumptions about people just because of how they look or sound! Tell them, “Even a little kid knows better than that!”
3) Share! Especially if you have much more than your friends.
When someone needs something, and you can help, you should help! It could be as simple as sharing your box of crayons, writing a national healthcare plan that doesn’t leave poor children to get sick and die, or giving your friend half of your sandwich. No matter how big or how small, sharing makes everyone’s life better.
Now, some people will say it’s not their fault that some people have less, and that they shouldn’t have to share with those people.
But what if everyone acted that way?
What if you only got to play with games and toys you brought to school yourself? What if your parents didn’t share food with you and you had to find it all yourself? What if rich people wanted a flat tax in the name of “fairness,” ignoring the regressive nature of the plan? What if the teachers didn’t share their time and knowledge with you?
The world works best when we all find ways to make each other’s lives better and easier. Some adults forget this, and sometimes those adults get elected to important roles in our world. Don’t be like those adults. It’s not nice to be greedy or self-centered!
4) Honor your word and do what you say you’re going to do.
If you say you’re going to do something, do it! And if you tell someone you’re not going to do something, don’t do it!
Seems pretty simple, but a lot of adults forget how to follow this easy rule.
If you tell your parents you’re going to clean your room, they should be able to walk away knowing that your room will be clean soon! If they come back and you haven’t even started, it makes them think they cannot trust you.
If you tell your friends you’re going to build a treehouse and your former friend José is going to pay for it, don’t back down when all of José’s friends and family get mad at you! And don’t tell your friends they have to pay for it when José tells you you’re high on candy and he’s never, ever going to pay for your stupid treehouse!
After a while, if you break your word too many times, everyone will start to think of you as a dishonest person. They’ll start to think that you just say things to make them think you’re going to do something, but you never planned on doing it at all. Eventually, your word won’t be worth anything to anyone!
5) You shouldn’t say every thought that pops into your head.
This is hard, but you’re smart boys and girls. I know you can do it!
It is normal to think things that aren’t nice or kind. Everyone does it. But responsible grown-ups choose not to say certain things out loud!
Sometimes, adults stay quiet instead of saying what they are thinking because they don’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings. Sometimes it’s because they realize saying what they are thinking would just make the situation worse. Other times, it’s because they think that saying the wrong thing will put millions of innocent South Korean and American lives at risk by painting a madman into an embarrassing corner. And some adults even stay quiet just because they don’t want to degrade the position of being an adult.
The worst kids and adults don’t care about any of this. They say whatever they want, hurt people’s feelings, make situations worse, and cause problems for themselves and others at every turn. And just like adults who don’t honor their word, eventually, everyone knows that adults who blurt out whatever they think are really not fun to be around!
Unfortunately, some boys and girls never learn these lessons. Some boys and girls instead spend decades with absolutely no consequences for name-calling, lying, being judgmental and racist, or blurting/tweeting out whatever idiocy occurs to them at 3:56 am while they sit on the toilet.
Be proud that you talk to your fellow human with respect, even when they make you mad or sad.
Be proud that you don’t judge people by what they look or sound like.
Be proud that you look for opportunities to make people’s lives easier.
Be proud that you do what you say you’ll do.
Be proud that you always avoid blurting out hurtful or unhelpful comments.
Be proud of yourself for being a good citizen of the world, and for not being like the worst examples “adults” have given you!
Can you think of any adults/presidents who need a refresher course on how to be a good person? Share this article with them! Or follow me on facebook, twitter, or instagram for more fun and occasionally thought-provoking stuff.