Establishing a family “People Charter”

I’ve always found it challenging to deal with children when it comes to over criticism versus explaining some of the nuances of dealing with people.  Where do we draw the line between setting some basic social structure for the little guys versus allowing them to be free in expressing themselves?  Obviously there is no right or wrong answer here and the answer can depend on the environment you find yourself in, your child’s personality, and your own biases and expectations.

Based on a lot of awkward moments, and after a long period of struggling to verbally convey these small nuances to my kids – I think I have finally figured out how to give my kids a clear sense of expectations.  I’ve created this “People Charter” that I thought is a good reference point, not just for the kids but for entire immediate family. Now of course there will still be times where certain exceptions to the rules would be more appropriate, but there is an understand that at a minimum how we treat people is based on these basic statements:

  • You are free to do what you want but you need to be considerate – if the screaming you are doing is affecting others who might be sensitive to loud noise – you don’t have the right to take away enjoyment from others if you don’t have to;
  • You can say what you want to say, just think about how you say it and who it might offend;
  • Sometimes it is worth offending someone if they are not willing to listen to the truth, but never make it personal – it should always be about the issue;
  • If someone is making you uncomfortable, you are not obligated to stay or agree to everything they say, even if it is an older member of the family, just leave politely;
  • Just remember everyone was once someone’s child or friend, that goes back with being empathetic and realizing everyone has a back story that we don’t necessarily know about;
  • If you can stand up for someone who isn’t able to stand up for themselves that is a true sign of bravery, but equally important if you aren’t able to – stay quiet – never make the situation worse by joining in;
  • Our elders deserve respect, what goes around comes around.  Even the choice of language should be considered when you are talking to those who are older than you.  It may sound like an archaic social structure but it is one worth keeping in my opinion.  Having said that if something is said which is inappropriate from an elder, you don’t have to sit there and agree to it, you disagree politely and walk away.  That actually speaks volumes without becoming brash;
  • Admit mistakes or misunderstandings, it is much more endearing and relatable to the other person if you admit a mistake than to be silent – everyone probably already knows it whether it is said out loud or not, just puts you in a much better light if you admit it right away and move on with your life;
  • Everything is temporary, situations change, people change, people leave us and new ones come to our lives – just try to leave things, people and situations the same if not better from when you first got involved.

This is a kind of a charter that I use with my kids moving forward in life, and surprisingly they get it. It is easy for them to understand and refer to.  Any other gems out there worth adding to this?


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