February was Black History Month, and here’s how the conversation between my fourth grade son and me went:
Son: Did Rosa Parks know she was breaking the law and would have to go to jail for sitting in the front of the bus?
Son: Then why did she do it?
Me: Because, sometimes you just have to stand up for what you believe no matter what everyone else thinks.
Son: I bet she was scared. I think she’s a hero and she doesn’t even have super powers, she just did the right thing.
Me: Sometimes, young one, that is a super power.
First, I was blown away that this story had enough of an impact on him to discuss it with me. Have y’all tried to have a conversation with a fourth grade boy about their school day? The term “pulling teeth” comes to mind. Second, and most importantly to me, was the fact that he empathized with Rosa Parks enough to understand that she must have been fearful, but she was very brave for doing what she thought was right.
As children, we are taught to obey our parents and respect authority. But then, as we get older, it seems that we are being led like sheep. Out of a sense of respect and fear of consequences, we don’t question where we are being led. Then, one day, we find ourselves in a world that resembles nothing of what we thought that it would. To make matters worse, we have taught our children how to be good sheep. There is a fine line between disrespect and voicing an opposing view. But, it can be taught and it would be to our advantage to encourage our children to do just that. It would be beneficial to ask our children for their opinion and discuss the reasons for that opinion. It would also be helpful for us to learn not to sway them into our way of thinking and to respect their opinion and tell them we respect it. It’s never too late to open this line of communication. This practice builds independent thinking, and believe me, when the teenaged years come that’s what is needed for them to survive peer pressure. It also builds confident young people that aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves or someone else. This practice will build the kind of people that we want and need in our future leading businesses and making decisions about our country. It can all start in the mind of fourth grader that thinks Rosa Parks was a super hero!