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2 Questions To Guide Our Loyalty Decisions

toughdecisionsHow can we gain more loyalty in our life, from our family, friends and those that we work with?
By being loyal to them.  As we build our personal trustworthiness with others, they see they can depend on us in difficult circumstances.

Loyalty can get sticky though when a person tells us something or we become aware of an action that is not safe or fair for themselves or others.  What if we came to know that a person we were close to was involved in an illegal activity.  How would we handle it if we learned that they had become abusive with a mate or child.  While we may not want to damage our relationship we must ask ourselves these two questions to make a decision we will be able to live with for a long time:

Will I feel proud of myself, if I choose to speak up or if I choose not to speak up?  How would I be affected long term if I did not speak up and further damage was done to this person or to others?  

What are the results I am looking for if I choose to speak up?  Am I looking to get this person in trouble or am I reporting to keep them and others safe?

Have you ever had the need to tell a person of authority something that you knew the other person would prefer you not to tell?  This is a big responsibility for an adult and we can see why this would be very difficult for a child to figure out the right thing to do.
Building our relationship to a high level of trust with our children will give them the confidence to come to us and tell us those ‘secrets’ that are confusing to them.  This month as we have talked to our students about loyalty, we have emphasized in every class the importance of speaking to their parents when these difficult decisions need to be made.  This is not for the parent to tell them what to do, but rather for them to guide them to find the answer that fits the values of the family.

Keep your conversations going with your children on loyalty and other life skills.  Balanced Life Skills is here to help start those conversations.  Together we are creating a culture of peace in our families, schools and communities.

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What to teach children about keeping secrets

secretsWe want our children to be able to keep secrets, to know there are things that are personal.  At the same time there are some things that they may be asked to keep as a secret that they need and we want them to be open with us about.  Our goal at all ages is for them to feel comfortable in telling us anything, especially things that do not feel good to them.  How we define these can be confusing to youngsters, depending on their age and maturity level.

When children are young – having a special secret can be a lot of fun, a bit mysterious and a special bond.  We want them to understand that if we are having a ‘surprise’ birthday party for daddy, that it is only a surprise if we can keep it a secret.  Tying the character skill of loyalty to this kind of secret is a simple way of teaching the importance of loyalty.  However if one of their friends is getting picked on in school, this is not a secret we want them to keep.   Or if their sibling is about to do something that is dangerous – we want them to tell us about it.  So even learning the difference between telling on someone to get them in trouble or reporting something to keep them safe is very different.

Here are the guides for knowing when to keep a secret and when we must tell a trusted adult, especially the parents.  Ask yourself 4 questions:

  1. Is it fair?  (does it feel like the right thing to do?)
  2. Is it safe?  (will someone be or get hurt if I don’t tell?)
  3. Will I be proud of the choice I make? (if I don’t tell, will I feel proud?)
  4. Am I trying to get help or get someone in trouble? (the difference between tattling and reporting)

These questions can be used no matter the age of the child, we can even ask our adult selves these questions when we are trying to determine if we should tell something to another person. Imagine your teen son or daughter learned that their friend was going to run away from home.  Wouldn’t you be proud of them if they came to you and told you?  They will if they understand that running away would not be safe and they are reporting it to you to help their friend.  That is loyalty.
In teaching them about the concept of loyalty, start by using examples that they can understand, where they need to make a choice about telling or not telling a secret.  Encourage them to use the four questions to make a decision about telling – and be loyal to their friends and family.

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How to choose safe, healthy relationships: the role of loyalty

Loyalty to your family Today is anWhy is understanding loyalty important for our young people and their relationships?  Loyalty is one of those qualities that we want from others, but many times are willing to overlook and make excuses for not getting.  In the end though, if we are in a relationship where the other person does not stand up for us, is not honest with us, puts us down or talks about us in a derogatory way behind our backs – we cannot be complete or fulfilled in that relationship.  It simply is not healthy.

As I thought about loyalty in the family, it has become clear that when we meet someone who is willing to do any of those things just mentioned to family members, eventually when they are comfortable with us, they will most likely treat and talk to us the same way.  Do we really want to be in that kind of relationship?

I asked each of our teen students to look and listen to the way their friends – especially girl & boy friends – talk about their siblings, parents and others close to them.  If they are disrespectful of them, not loyal to them – you can expect the same treatment later in your relationship.  You need to choose if this is the kind of person you want to spend time with.  We need to even ask – Is this a safe and healthy relationship?

Balanced Life Skills is helping our students understand loyalty and opening the conversation for parents to have with their children on this key life skill.

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What if you are loyal – but your friend is not loyal?

Never push a loyal person to a pointChildren can learn loyalty by practicing it first with family members, then with friends, teams and classmates.  The practice of loyalty may begin with being trustworthy and helping the family by doing chores – both your own and maybe even helping others with theirs if they are not able to complete them due to sickness.

Sticking up for our family members, speaking up and supporting a younger sibling who may be having difficulty with a friend is a way of showing loyalty.  Keeping our word to a younger brother or sister will help them to see loyalty in action and to feel the assurance that you will have their back in times of trouble.

What if you are a loyal friend though and your friend does not keep their word?  They tell you they are going to come over to your house and then cancel – over and over again.  Or they promise to keep your secrets and not tell anyone – yet you find out that they did tell others.   What would you do?

We posed that question to our students this week.  The answer that was agreed on by most was that your friendship would most likely have to be examined.  While you may not dismiss them completely, if you are not able to trust them, you may need to decide if this is healthy for you or not.  One student said your relationship is going to change and you would not want to confide in them, in fact you may decide that they should be more of an acquaintance rather than a best friend.

Some students suggested that they would tell the person it was hard to be ‘best friends’ when you did not feel they were being loyal to them.  Others suggested that could be done without hurting the feelings of another person, simply by not sharing private thoughts etc. and gradually changing the relationship.

Presenting these kind of scenarios to our children will help them to think these situations out before they actually happen.  Allow them to come up with answers and ways of handling the problem.  This will prepare them for real world problems,  and not surprise  them, which might result in a bigger battle.  Balanced Life Skills is helping our students understand loyalty and opening the conversation for parents to have with their children on this key life skill.

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Practice loyalty with family members first

Our theme this week in talking to our students was practicing loyalty at home was good for learning how to be loyal outside the home, with your friends, school, band, sports team.  When we are loyal to our family we are in effect saying to the family I will support you, contribute to the well being of the group and do whatever I am able to help our family out.

piano-lessons2For our children to learn about loyalty we as parents will demonstrate what that looks like, not just by setting the example – but also by being sure that our children know that our action is a way of showing loyalty to others in the family, saying it out loud.  All parents have given up something we would like to do or need to do to be there for our child’s swim meet, baseball game or other event.  When we do an act of loyalty, for our children to learn the lesson we can tell them,

“I want to be there for you.”
“You can depend on me being there.”
“I will always be there for you.”
“I am supporting you in all that you do.”

Making sure they hear these words, connected to the action will begin to let them know that loyalty to family members does not just happen in difficult times or when there is a crisis.  We are loyal all of the time.

Balanced Life Skills is helping our students understand loyalty and opening the conversation for parents to have with their children on this key life skill.

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