Parenting is a journey of discovery, one in which we are always learning for ourselves and for our children. When it comes to impactful leaders, Martin Luther King Jr. is one from which we can take much wisdom and pass it on to the next generation. As such, there are many lessons moms can teach their kids from Dr. King’s legacy that can help raise compassionate and respectful children.
What I like the most about the values and ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is that we can share them with children of any age. Depending on their development and maturity, we can shape the messages in a way they can understand. Moreover, we can find practical ways to integrate them into our daily teachings.
As many of you know, I have 3 kids, ages 3 to 8, and at those ages, the world is all about play, imagination, birthday parties, pirates, race cars, and dollhouses. Even at these ages, I’ve learned that along with all of that, children are inherently noble and if you exposed them to the highest values, they will thrive and blossom.
In celebration of Martin Luther King’s Day, I’m sharing some of the lessons moms can teach kids drawn from MLK’s quotes.
10 Lessons Moms Can Teach From MLK
Love Over Hate
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
This quote helps me stay grounded and reminds me of another unforgettable leader, José Francisco Peña Gómez, whom after being attacked and discriminated throughout his career, faced with his imminent death, decided to issue the last message of forgiveness. Teaching our children the importance of love and the damaging and high price of hate, it’s just one way we can prepare them to build a better society.
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
As moms, we know that in order to thrive our children need to learn to persevere. By telling Dr. King’ story of perseverance, this is one of the lessons moms can teach their kids. Despite all the hatred and violence endured by African Americans during the Civil Rights movement, Dr. King remained focus on his message of peace and continued to persevere until his death. Letting our children know about the impact of MLK’s life and his perseverance is a great way to illustrate the importance for them to persevere.
“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
From all the lessons moms can teach their children, being non-judgemental has to be one of the most difficult. As mothers, we are constantly passing judgment on ourselves, and at times, on other moms. It is a fact that I’m personally not proud of, but one that I’m committed to working on. Although Dr. King specifically mentions skin color, this quote serves as a perfect example to focus on people’s character and not in how they look like, their abilities, their religion, where they come from, or who they love.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
This is a lesson that has been particularly difficult for me to learn, personally. In part because I haven’t formally followed religious faith throughout my life, despite the fact that I was raised a Catholic. In my teens, I rebelled against religion and attached my identity to being a facts-based and science-based kind of gal. Now starting my 40s, I’ve come to understand the importance of faith, something Dr. King needed to be successful, he needed to believe that his goal was achievable. That it is definitely a lesson I want my children to learn.
Standing Up For Others
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
I love movies and especially those who tell extraordinary stories about ordinary people who, in the face of injustice, stand up for others. As Dr. King taught not only with his words but by the way he inspired allies with his resilience. Some of the lessons moms can teach to kids are practical and can be encounter in our day-to-day lives, but others, like standing up for what’s right, we need to make an effort to teach. In order to do that, we have to pay attention to what our kids tell us and to other teaching moments that might come up.
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
My wise coach always says that there is opposition to everything, and that’s why I love the wisdom of this Martin Luther King quote. One of the most important lessons moms can teach children is to handle disappointment; we must make sure they learn about the impermanence of things and teach them that those feelings are going to pass. Also, as Dr. King so eloquently stated, we have to nurture in them the capacity for hope, to never lose hope.
We Are All Interconnected
“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
Although the language in this one is not the way you would teach this lesson to a small child, we can use it as the base to let our kids know how we are all interconnected. Telling our little ones the positive impact we can make when we work together to build and lift each other up. I believe that learning early in life about what connects us to other human beings, helps us have more empathy and respect for others.
Doing What’s Right
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
As moms, we are always on our kids’ case about doing what’s right: “don’t hit your brother”, “don’t steal”, “share with your sister”, and so many other daily reminders to do the right thing. All of these are good examples and part of the lessons moms can teach children daily. It is important that we also teach them that many times doing the right thing, doesn’t feel right, but we do it anyways. We must let them know that it can be an isolating place, one in which we may be labeled ‘problematic’ or lose people we thought were in our corner; but we do it anyway.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”
Although the question Dr. King refers to in this quote is one we start asking ourselves as we reach adulthood or certain maturity, nurturing a desire to help others in children is a great lesson that can enrich their lives from an early age. A great way to teach this lesson to kids is finding an activity in which you can all do together that will give them a sense of responsibility and pride.
Love Is Transformative
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
No one knows better about the transformative power of love as a mom does; we experience what is known as the most powerful kind of love there is. As such, we are fully equipped to teach our little ones how great and powerful love can be. We can quote Dr. King verbatim in this one for kids of any age because they know about friendships and how kindness and love make them feel.
What’s your favorite MLK quote?