Childrearing

‘Do Unto Others’ Just Encourages My Daughter To Growl In Your Face

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I’m done with this “Do unto others” nonsense. It might make a nice lesson for Sunday school, but it’s an extremely flawed practice. The actual quote is, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” [Matthew 7:12] The general thought is that you should always treat those around you in the same manor that you would be prefer to be treated.

Now I’m not trying to argue religion here and I agree that the sentiment of the thought is correct. Unfortunately, the application of this principle is problematic. See, this entire practice rests on the assumption that everyone would like to be treated exactly as you would. Think about that for a minute as I give some examples of why this is a truly terrible piece of advice.

My daughter loves animals! We play lions and horses and dinosaurs. We run around the house like idiots. She loves everything about it. But not every child loves animals with the enthusiasm that Brenna does. So when we visited a friend this weekend, my daughter ran up to another child and growled in her face. Brenna continued to growl and roar at the little girl until she was cowering behind her mother’s legs. The petrified little girl ended up in tears and Brenna couldn’t understand what was wrong. Why? Because Brenna would love it if people growled all the time! This child obviously did not.

It’s not just children who don’t appreciate a good roar. Adults seem to find my daughter’s animal noises a little disconcerting. But I bet all those Judgey McJudgersons at the grocery store think that “The Golden Rule” is swell. While friends, my daughter would love it if you roared at her every time you make eye contact. She’s just doing what she wishes everyone else would.

For an example outside of the toddler years, I happen to be a little under the weather, by which I mean that I have pneumonia. My husband hates sick people, and when he’s sick, he wants everyone to leave him the hell alone. That’s what works for him. However, when I’m sick, I want everyone to treat me like a princess and dote on me. (Don’t judge me, I’m sick and tired and I can’t breathe!) When my husband follows “The Golden Rule” and leaves me alone, I end up screaming that he doesn’t love me. Because if he loved me, he’d want to take care of me, which he isn’t doing. (Remember I said tired, that leads to emotional overreacting.) When he’s sick, I continue to barge into his room pushing soup and thermometers his way, interrupting his rest and generally testing his nerves.

The fact is that my husband and I have very different needs. My daughter and the random strangers at the grocery store want very different things out of their trip. My daughter is hoping for a Barbie and I assume the other shoppers just want to be left alone to examine their cantelope. So if we’re trying to take care of each other, we don’t need to treat anyone how we want to be treated. I need to treat my husband how he wants to be treated. My daughter needs to treat strangers how they want to be treated. It’s a lot more difficult to figure out what someone else wants, instead of imposing your preferences on them. But if we’re truly trying to be kind and caring, this is the correct way to do it.

1 Comment

  1. Jen

    September 16, 2011 at 11:27 am

    So true! My husband and I are the same way, but in reverse (he wants to be a princess, I want to be a troll). I think as a general principle the “golden rule” still holds up, after all there are very few people who want to be hit or excluded or bullied. However, an addendum is definitely necessary. Instead of the “Golden Rule” I like to go the empathy route. Before you do something think about how it may make the other person feel and if you have any doubts then you probably shouldn’t be doing/saying whatever it is.

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