It's Hard to be Humble
When I was nine-years-old, my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Shaw, taught the class a song I still remember today. We sang it for the Spring concert much to the delight and amusement of our parents:
I chose this version because who doesn't love the Muppet Show? The version we sang substituted the phrase "must be a hell of a man" with "must be a heck of a kid". I'm sure there were other lyrical changes to make the song more kid-friendly, but I don't remember the specifics.
However, I do remember that all of us kids clearly understood the joke. We understood what it meant to be truly humble and that to brag about being humble was just the opposite. When I think of today's 4th graders, I'm not sure many of them would get the joke.
How Small am I?
Previously, I wrote about my thought process when crafting the poem How Big is the World, focusing on the child in the painting who realizes the vastness of the fields and the world beyond with the title line repeated in the body of the poem.
The last verse aims to capture the subsequent feeling after realizing how big the world is:
How small am I?
Compared to the rest of the Universe, we are all incredibly small and unimportant. That doesn't mean that individuals don't matter, or that human life isn't important. Humility doesn't mean a lack of self-worth, rather the opposite. It means realizing one's own worth as well as the worth of others.
Humility leads to empathy and kindness. It means valuing yourself while also looking up with admiration to everyday heroes. Humility promotes respect for all living things. It decreases selfishness and the need for instant gratification.
Humility means understanding that there is much to learn, which keeps the mind open to new ideas. It fosters curiosity. Humility leads to a sense of wonder.
Being Humble vs. Acting Humble
It's easy to act humble. I've read many articles while researching this topic, many with lists of ways to teach kids to be humble. There is a major emphasis on three actions:
While these are fine ways of teaching kids to act humble, I would argue they don't mean much without teaching kids how to be humble. Children may indeed learn true humility by performing the above actions over a period of time, but what if they don't?
I think the best way to teach children true humility is for parents to model it.
I found a handy chart that differentiates between true humility and its two extremes, false humility and pride. It seems to apply more toward adults, but it illustrates the qualities to strive for when modeling true humility to children.
Humility is a Good Thing
Despite the Oxford Dictionary's opinion (see previous post), I believe humility is a character trait worth promoting in children. There are so many quotes and memes about humility that I could have used, but I'm not fond of the inspirational quote posters found in most high school guidance counselor's offices, so I'll refrain.
I am not a child psychologist, or a teacher, or a guru. But I am a parent, and we tried to teach our kids that they are not the center of the universe. No one really cares about your birthday except your family. Anyone else is in it for the cake and goodie-bags. (We offered the choice between dinner at a restaurant or a small sleepover, never a big party.) We tried to teach them to take pleasure, not pride, in their achievements. To take failure with humility, but to try again anyway. And to realize that success in life is not a zero-sum game.
I remember one specific moment when I realized my emphasis on humility was working. Our youngest child was in third grade when he participated in a basketball league. At the end of the season, everyone got a participation trophy. Our son had always wanted a trophy, but when he noticed that everyone received one, his excitement vanished and he simply shrugged. The trophy never made it to a shelf in his room.
Is that a humble-brag? Probably. I never said I was perfect...
Okay, that's enough "preachiness" for one post.
I will, however, sum up with a simple idea that can be taught to children using one of my favorite movie moments:
Any excuse to use a Star Wars reference...
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I write novels and poetry and this blog.