Creating positive family values

At work yesterday, I observed a scene that I see all too frequently. A couple with numerous children in tow carrying a document that allows them free public transport. These documents are provided to those that are too destitute to afford the cost of transport.

Sadly, as I often see accompanying these cases, the father (?) was yelling out to the children in an angry and loud voice ‘hurry the f**k up!!’. The children and mother with pram, poorly dressed and trodden down, running to catch up. No holding hands, no loving smiles, just abusive and foul language in this family unit.

Sadly, I commonly see both situations together in my position in high-volume customer service. The family apparently too poor to afford public transport and aggressive, foul-mouthed adults.

There are two aspects that arise out of this situation for the children:

  • They grow up with an understanding that they are entitled to support. The Australian government has developed an incredible financial environment for those that are incapable of working. However, there seems to be growing number of people who create their life around rorting the system to their benefit. Each child entitles them to additional benefit that seems to be utilised for the purposes of additional alcohol, cigarettes and fast food rather than to care for their growing family.
  • The children grow up with an abusive mindset, whether it be physical or verbal. If not abusive, at least un-loving. Again, it is not uncommon for me to see unaccompanied children under 10 travelling after midnight. Often, the children do not have money (or claim they don’t anyway) for the tickets to travel. I have no authority to enforce a paid ticket, so the child learns that paying for tickets is for idiots. These same children have little respect for adults either, and I often receive a mouth full of obscenities if I ask for a valid ticket.

Please don’t get me wrong, I have real empathy for those that, for whatever reason, do not have the capability to work for mental or physical reasons or, for no fault of their own, have fallen on hard times. They genuinely need the help either for quality of life or to help them back on to their feet.

In the other cases though, the cycle will probably be continued. Bad family environment surrounded by neglect and abuse, total avoidance of legitimate work at all costs and swindle the government for handouts.

Later in the day, I engaged in conversation with a colleague. This discussion was in complete opposition to that which I had witnessed earlier in the day.

My colleague Peter (pseudonym) has 7 children. He is not a financial rich person by any means. His family lives on his salary alone. His family does not do without but only spend money on what is necessary.

He shared that he is a firm but not a strict father and tries to instil in his children positive values. Should one of children make a mistake, he explains to them that everyone makes mistakes but they must use it to learn why it was the wrong thing and how to avoid repeating. A saying he uses with his children, ‘there is no right way to do the wrong thing’. I got the impression that his children are not scared of the punishment they will receive if they do something wrong but are just scared of disappointing.

One his adult children has become quite successful at football and has obtained a contract overseas for $250,000 a year, which will increase each year of his contract. Providing he sustains no serious injury, his son will be financially secure at the end of his football career. Peter said that he asked his son what he intended to do with his money, his son replied ‘Buy a house for mum’. After reading so many stories of young sports stars behaving like brats on and off the ‘field’ and spending their money lavishly on sports cars, partying and drugs, it was refreshing to hear that a successful young man’s first thought was for his family and not himself.

Peter recounted several stories, each that demonstrated his love for his family and the values that he endeavoured to instil in his children. One story was of one of his young daughters had asked for extra sandwiches with peanut butter and jam (jelly) for school. When asked why, she said she wanted to share some sandwiches with kids that didn’t have sandwiches. His same daughter, who is a keen baker at only 10, will take her baked products to school to share. Peter said that he had always encouraged his children to share and was proud that his daughter was demonstrating this already at an early age.

Another story was that household chores were shared without complaint. He said that chores more often than not become more of a social time for the family. When washing up dishes, the family would engage in conversation so the ‘chore’ was not something that was looked upon as something horrible but something enjoyable.

I was fascinated with Peter’s stories. In no way was he preaching that he was the best father in the world or that what he did was the only way. He was just talking to me about his children and his life. I was the one that was taking the moral values that his stories were illustrating.

By chance, I had met one of his daughters the previous day. I’m guessing she was late teens. She came up to ask me where Peter was working that day in the building. It would be difficult to find a more lovely, respectful and polite young lady. I saw Peter later and he advised that she was bringing his lunch for the day. She was a positive example of the way that Peter and his wife have brought up their children.

Interestingly, Peter has a background working in prisons. He says he is was exposed to many prisoners that had committed terrible crimes and there was often a high-level of aggression towards him during his work day. This experience would harden many people but Peter is a gentle, humble and softly spoken man. His nature is such that I find myself matching his manner and it is difficult to get upset in his presence. In saying that, should trouble occur, he is formidable and will diffuse a situation quickly.

It was an interesting day of contrast but in a way, exactly the same. Both families creating a culture of values that is likely to be continued to their next family. One positive and one negative.

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