“When you are kind to others, it not only changes you, it changes the world.” – Harold Kushner
One morning, not long after dropping my son, Jake, off at school, I got a text message from my friend. Jake and her son, Sam, are friends also and go to school together. That morning, Sam had been feeling upset and was reluctant to be left at school. When Jake saw how his friend was feeling, he took care of him and tried to cheer him up. “Jake is such a lovely kid and you should’ve seen it”, the text said.
I really appreciated the text because I needed to be reminded of how kind Jake actually is. Lately, I feel that I’ve spent a lot of time refereeing arguments between my boys and I had forgotten how caring he can be. But, when I read my friend’s message, I could just imagine Jake’s manner – the gentle one he uses to comfort his little brother, Thomas, when he’s hurt or when he’s helping Thomas to put his shoes on.
Coming from Love, kindness is intrinsic in us all. We are born spiritually aligned, with a sense of oneness that wants to be expressed through kindness. In support of this, we are biologically wired to be kind – think of the natural high both the giver & the receiver feel when an act of kindness has been performed.
Although born ready for kindness, we quickly have experiences which can cause us to behave in less-than-kind ways. Contending with other children who want the toy we have or parental pressure to do well at school, for example, can create a threat to us. At these times, fear kicks in and survival of one sort or another becomes more important than kindness.
As parents, though, we can help our children to exercise their kindness muscle, to build its strength so that it is stronger than fear. And we’ve got a head start with this job because, really, we all want to be kind.
5 WAYS TO NURTURE OUR CHILDREN’S KINDNESS
Be an example of kindness. I know, I write that we should be an example a lot! But our example is our most powerful tool as parents. Firstly, we need to show kindness towards our children. As obvious as this may seem, it can be hard to do at times, especially when we’re feeling under-the-weather or pressured in some way. For me, the way I talk to my boys isn’t always kind. I can slip into a slightly ranty, instruction-giving machine at times and that is something I’m working on. Our children also need to see us being kind to others – even little kindnesses like stopping to let a car into the flow of traffic or holding the door open for the Mum with the buggy provide a great example to our children.
Acknowledge and appreciate our children’s kindness. By noticing and thanking our children for their kindness, they see that it makes a difference. I thank my boys for kindness they show to each other or other people, as well as to me. I try not to praise kindness as this encourages them to be caring for the wrong reasons – it becomes approval-seeking instead. (My post Overusing Good Job elaborates on this.)
Look for natural opportunities for our children to be kind. These arise all the time. At a birthday party, we may suggest our child invite the shy one to play with them. When they come home from a party with a goody bag of sweets, we may suggest they share some of the sweets with their brother or sister. I try to present these as opportunities to be kind, rather than as expectations so they can feel the joy of kindness, not a sense of obligation. By practising kindness, we make kindness a habit.
Be kind together as a family. We have some family Christmas traditions that help our boys to think about what they can give, not only what they might get. Leaving candy canes for people to find around the local shopping mall is a particularly fun one. But, kindness is great any time of year. When Thomas is a little older, I’d like our family to get involved in helping a particular cause on a regular basis and am on the look-out for one that we all feel passionate about.
Talk about kindness. In our home, we use the word “kindness” daily. It is one of our family’s highest values. When talking with my boys about their behaviour, I tend not to say it is “good” or “bad” but to discuss with them whether it was respectful and kind. We talk about kindness people have shown towards us and acts of kindness we witness that don’t involve us. We talk about how good it feels to be kind.
IN SUMMARY – KINDNESS IS WIN/WIN
Kindness comes easily to children and adults alike. I know it doesn’t always seem this way but, with a little faith and nurturing, our children will surprise us with their small acts and large gestures of caring. The form kindness takes is of less importance than the fact they cared enough to offer it.
Last weekend, Jake made me an “I love you” card, decorated with 18 hearts and declaring that, not only am I the best Mum ever, but my chocolate chip cookies are the best ever. It made my day to get it and I could tell by the way he presented it to me that it made Jake’s day to give it. Kindness is win-win.
Much love to you and your little souls,
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