I always tell my children that kindness is the most important thing — more important than intelligence or athleticism or humor or wit or any other quality or trait a human can possess. I tell them I want them to treat each other with kindness, even when it’s hard. Kindness first, I say.
But I wonder how often I demonstrate that. I know, if I’m being honest, that I do not hold myself to that same standard; when I’m grouchy, when I’m tired, when I’m stressed, kindness is not always my primary emotion. When they misbehave, I don’t always redirect them from a place of kindness, I yell at them. I lose my patience. I get mad about stuff that isn’t worth getting mad about.
I hear the echo of my own impatience when Bridget snaps at Gabe. I see the shadow of my own stubbornness when Owen refuses to apologize to Quinn for snatching something out of his hands. I cringe, seeing the reflection of my own bad behavior in the actions of my children. I know I can do better.
I saw this news story a while ago about a teacher who starts every day in his class by complimenting his students each personally. He demonstrates positive communication even when he’s faced with negative behavior. He teaches kindness above all else. His Facebook page is really great — an ode to the amazing kids he works with. It’s an eye-opener and it really got me thinking.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been really paying attention to how I react to my kids. I’ve been trying really hard not to model impatience or anger, even when the kids are being rotten. Especially when the kids are being rotten.
It is a truth I often unfortunately forget that the child who needs love the most often asks for it in the most unloving of ways.
It’s so tempting to respond to anger and stubbornness with more anger and stubbornness, but when I try to out-anger or out-stubborn my kids, I rarely come away feeling good about it. Even if I “win” the struggle, it’s not a victory — all I’ve succeeded in doing is telling my children that angry behavior is acceptable. In reality there is almost always a better option and it’s my job as a mother to demonstrate that.
Instead, I’ve been complimenting good behavior and responding to bad behavior with hugs, love, and encouragement instead of shouting or punishing. Discipline is a fact of parenting, but discipline doesn’t need to be angry.
I’m embarrassed to say it’s harder than it should be. I keep reminding myself that I am not perfect, but that as the adult it is absolutely up to me to set the standard of behavior. And just because I am an adult does not mean I can act any way I want. I still have to be kind, even when I want to be mad.
I do think it’s making a difference, even though it’s not easy. And I do think it’s getting easier the more I remind myself not to yell or blame or dig in.
To be sure, I still hold my kids to a high standard of behavior. I expect them to be good and when they’re not, I make sure they know they can do better. But now I feel as though I’m actually holding myself to that same standard a little more strictly — I am forcing myself to choose kindness and I can see that it’s making a difference in my kids’ behavior too.
Also, here’s why I try to stay outwardly calm even if I’m inwardly freaking out.