Here’s the truth: Kids can be unkind. In fact, they can be little turds.
It starts when they try out their new teeth and bite you for the first time during breastfeeding.
Or they forcefully grab a toy from a friend on a play date because they’re tired of waiting for their turn.
Or they throw their first punch in preschool because their classmate won’t move out of their way.
Or they blurt out something hurtful about the lady in the grocery line next to you and your face turns bright beet red from embarrassment.
Yup. They can be unkind.
But here’s the deal: Kids are supposed to push limits as far as they can push them. They’re learning about the world they’re growing up in and it’s their developmental job to test and flex social boundaries. They’re searching for that gentle balance between self-preservation and selfishness. A halfway point that leans toward assertiveness instead of aggression.
And it’s our job as parents to help them figure out those balances.
We coach them.
We redirect them.
We put them in time out or take away privileges or teach them how to apologize.
And in the process, we are shaping our little offspring into little humans who will treat others with respect and will be able to manage their impulses and anger.
But when it comes to fostering kindness in our children, there is one thing we can do that is more important than any redirection tool or words of wisdom.
As parents, we have to SHOW them kindness with our actions.
Because our kids are watching us. They are listening to us.
They are listening when we watch the news at night and choose to not make snarky comments about the anchor’s new hairstyle or their hot pink blazer.
They are watching when we get cut off by an impatient driver on the freeway and choose not to cuss them out or give them the middle finger salute.
They are listening when we speak kindly about their school friends, even if we don’t particularly care for one. They are also listening when we speak about our own family members and friends and say complimentary and respectful words instead of criticisms and catty remarks.
Most of all they are watching how we behave in the most intimate of circumstances: How we talk to our partner. How we talk to our kids. And how we treat ourselves.
They listen to the words you use when you are looking at yourself in the mirror or how you handle yourself when you make a big mistake. They hear you when you give yourself grace and kindness instead of self-loathing or self-hatred.
You can talk about kindness until you are blue in the face, but if you do not act kind yourself, your words will fall on deaf ears.
I usually steer clear of clichés, but when it comes to kindness, actions truly do speak louder than words.
My advice to you: stop worrying about teaching your child to be kind, and focus your energy on being kind yourself. The world will seem like a friendlier place… and your kids will surprise you with their sweetness.