“Sheila, do I really need to teach my kids
to be kind to everyone?”
Ah, those lovely “all or nothing” questions! When I get that question, I know to ask the story behind it. Usually, there is a situation of hurt or anger.
Surely, we don’t want to set our kids up to be bullied or mistreated because they are kind! Surely, you won’t tell me to teach my kids to be kind to the mean kids.
I do not have all the answers. But, I do know that parents often hesitate with these issues because they haven’t decide for themselves if *they* should be kind to everyone.
So, I ask: Are you kind to everyone? Do you think *you* should be kind to everyone?
The elderly neighbor across the street? Heck, yeah! She is the sweetest person.
The fancy SUV that cut you off on the highway? Well, (long pause) maybe it was a family emergency.
The co-worker that took credit for your idea? . . . The stay at home mom that you heard was spreading rumors about you?
I think this is why people then start perceiving kindness as weakness. If you are kind to those that are unkind, are you not taking care of yourself? Standing up for your perspective, your work, or rights? How do you teach “Strength in Kindness,” being kind in standing up for yourself and others . . . OR, maybe it is better if we follow what one lady said on the playground to me: I just tell my kids that they have to be civil to others, not nice, not friendly, just civil.
Does being kind mean that we open ourselves to continued abuse?
I’ve been hurt before, and, my first reaction to those that are unkind to me has been to pull back and surround myself with safety. As we continue this daily focus on serving others, though, I have started to recognize, in the heat of the situation, that those that are lashing out at me are unhappy, are hurting in the inside. Does that realization motivate me to throw kindness glitter in the air and shower the offender with love? Only occasionally.
Always, though, it affords me a chance to recognize what is going on in the situation and draw the lessons that need to be experienced.
I know, I know. Teaching kids to be kind should be easy, right? We read a cute story about a kid being kind and then we sigh in contentment and give each other hugs. Right?
Teaching my kids to be kind and serve others has been a personal learning experience, not just a parenting technique.
In the end, I usually end up putting the original question back on the parent. Why do YOU want to teach your kids to be kind, to serve others? It is within the answer to this question that they start to see what they want to do with their own kids.
“Strength in Kindness”
From my perspective – As I teach my kids to recognize need and where kindness and service are ways to fill those needs, I am teaching my kids to:
- Appreciate the perspectives of others, and
- Experience gratitude.
We actively discuss how to be a voice for those in need and speak up for their hardships. As we learn together how to do this, we are also learning the critical skills of being able to speak up for ourselves.
Last year, there was a kid bothering Big Brother on the playground, being super annoying and pushy. I was watching to see how my 6 year old would handle it, on the edge of the wrought iron bench wondering when to use the “Mommy” voice and intervene.
Big Brother: I don’t like that. I need you to stop.
Annoying Kid pushes him hard. (I hold my breath.)
Big Brother: I am strong, but I am not going to push back or hit you. If you want to play with me, let’s go to the swings. But stop pushing me.
Annoying Kid pushes on Big Brother, again.
Big Brother (stands firm, not pushing back but standing his ground): I said, NO!
Annoying Kid then stops and walks away. Later, I do see him playing with Big Brother on the slides.
I didn’t grow up as insightful as Big Brother. If it had been me at 6 years old, I probably would have taken my shy self, run away from the situation, and found a great place to hide. I *might* have had a flair of courage and told the teacher.
I do see how kindness can be perceived, in the short term, as a weakness. Being kind is not being stupid. It is about putting the needs of others before our own in appropriate ways.
The more that I do this, the more that I see my children learn.
I see kindness as a path towards conflict resolution, no matter the issue.
Today is a great day for you to start serving with your kids through completing service projects and acts of kindness.
It isn’t too late, unless you keep pushing it off.
Service does not need to be complicated to be meaningful.
It is worth it.