222. Liking Children

I used to think I was supposed to like everyone, and I made it my business to see the good in absolutely every person I encountered. Whenever I found myself starting to dislike someone, I thought there was something wrong with my perception, and I just needed to look harder; if I looked hard enough, I would find out why this jerk seemed obnoxious or sadistic, find it in my heart to forgive the turkey, and make a new friend.
A few years ago, I learned how to dislike people. I didn’t have to give up my faith that all people are basically good – a faith Anne Frank kept through worse evidence to the contrary than I’ve ever seen. I just had to decide that some people’s behaviors and/or attitudes hid inner goodness enough to serve as obstacles to friendship. And so I allowed myself to dislike a few people. Not counting some historical figures or politicians, whom I never got to know on a personal level, there are about five people I don’t like. They probably wouldn’t have the good taste to read my articles, so you’re probably not one of them.
I still haven’t learned to dislike any children. I’ve disliked some of children’s behaviors and attitudes, but their goodness is close to the surface, and the reasons for their annoying characteristics are easier to see. So it’s easier to forgive them and get on with the business of liking them. I know that people like to be liked, and the more they’re liked, the more they show their endearing sides.
The teachers I consider least effective are teachers who don’t seem to like children. For one reason or another, the things children do or say bug these adults, who may have reasons for teaching that get them to put up with the little monsters, but don’t generate fondness. Children are quick to pick up on this attitude, and they either reciprocate, hating the teacher, internalize the feeling and start hating themselves, or both. There are other ways for a teacher to be ineffective, but none are as toxic as disliking children.
People really are good – even the ones I don’t want to be around. And children’s goodness is usually easier to see. I know “goodness”is a culturally and personally relative concept, but there are certain behaviors it usually doesn’t include. As long as we let children know we really see and appreciate their goodness (fakeness won’t do it), they’ll keep showing it to us.

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