I am fairly confident I say the words, “be kind, choose kindness, or you are kind” 1,000 times a day to my kids. And sometimes it feels like we’re not making a lot of progress in the kindness department. I mean, when will things ‘click’? What is happening? Well, I’m not entirely sure yet, but I have an idea or two.
Yesterday I had a chance to chat with a teacher who heads up several unique programs for our school, he seems like a pretty great resource. So I asked him, specifically, how I could work with my daughter on being kind.
And as we chatted I realized that I hadn’t really helped my children define what kindness is. Or what it looks like, or feels like. I mean, think about it, it’s pretty abstract. I can hardly give you a good working definition as an adult. When I stopped to think about it, all I could come up with was, “being kind is, well, being kind.”
That isn’t exactly helpful to a small child.
The dictionary isn’t much help either, “the quality of being friendly, generous, or considerate.”
Can a child articulate what is being generous? Or considerate? Probably not very easily. Perhaps with some prompting.
I decided it would be helpful if I could work through this with my children, and so we’ve begun practical conversations about what it means to be kind. We’ve talked about examples of it, what it looks like and feels like, and naturally, what it does not look like.
Turns out, there are so many great resources out there. We came across several great charts on Pinterest. I also came across a FANTASTIC book, and I’d love to share it with you. This book, Be Kind, by Pat Zietler Miller, is amazing. (It’s right here on Amazon if you wanna check it out) It’s a story about how a little girl spills grape juice on herself, and what another little girl thinks about it; she wonders what to do, how to help her, how to deal with it. And how when we are kind to just one person, that kindness spreads. (Spoiler alert: one idea she has is to spill juice on herself to make the other little girl less embarrassed and alone-it’s so sweet!)
And I have a feeling, it’s not a matter of things just clicking one day, and suddenly they will be kind. It might be, that the road to kindness is, well, a road. A journey. And perhaps, if I am being honest, I’ve got some unrealistic expectations of my children and how they behave. Do I expect them to be kind all day, ever day, with me, their siblings, their friends? Gulp. I think I do. I mean, I don’t, but I do. I’m hurt, or annoyed, or offended that we have to have the same conversations about being kind every single day, all day long. But why?
I had to stop and ask my adult self, am I kind all the time?
Uh, nope. No I am not. Not even close. So, then, perhaps as we continue to have these conversations about kindness, I can remember that it’s a process. I am work in progress, as are my children. And just as I am thankful for God’s grace with me in my process, I can also chose to have grace with my own children in their process as well.
So yes, bring on the books and the charts and the ideas, but also, bring on the grace. I’ve got to let go of my unrealistic expectations, and chose to continue down the ever exhausting path of correcting, directing, disciplining, reminding, and encouraging. And we’ll continue to have these discussions, and read great books, and remind ourselves that kindness is a choice. And sometimes we don’t make good choices, but, but we can keep trying.