I read the sweet comment and felt a twinge of fear.
The comment, on 100 Ways to be Kind to Your Child said:
“The best thing I have seen about showing kindness to your child, is that as they grow older, they show that same kindness to you and to others – and that is a joy to behold.”
Why would I feel fear when reading that? I suppose fear might be a little off the mark…I felt overwhelmed.
Sweet and simple, on the surface, but it felt overwhelming when I thought of the number of times I’ve spoken or yelled in an irritated and angry voice. The times I’ve snapped at my kids. The times I’ve been unkind.
You might read one of the many articles I have here on dealing with anger and think I have it all figured out. (And I would laugh and laugh.) The thing is, this is a continual process. The phrase or tool that inspires you at one point in time changes. As I develop and grow in my parenting and in life in general, I spiral back to some of the most simple lessons and see them afresh.
The comment about kids imitating kindness gave me a twinge of fear because I know they imitate me, not only when I’m being kind. I am at a point where I can admit that I hear it in their exasperated voices and in the angry words they fling at one another – they're imitating me.
Something to do rather than something to stop
In those unkind times I’ve felt out of control, unable to stop myself from yelling and acting mean. It feels in those moments like I have no resources left to act in kindness. These are the times I’ve felt scraped empty with nothing to give. Adding on the command that I've got to STOP YELLING when I'm at that point feels overwhelming.
But one thing I know about myself is that I do better with a thing TO DO rather than something NOT to do. I looked at the comment and thought, what if I can just tip the scales? What if I can move us into have more kindness to imitate? Instead of something to stop, it gave me a something to do.
So I began with that focus – I will give them kindness to imitate.
I began resting in the truth that my kids imitate kindness.
They imitate kindness.
We sometimes go through yelling cycles in this house, and I know I contribute to them by yelling back at the yelling. I felt that if I could focus on one thing, and that one thing was using a kind voice, then maybe I could start a new cycle, one based in kindness.
They imitate kindness.
It has been my mantra in the past month, and I can tell you, it helps.
Not only has it been my mantra, I’m reminding the kids that that’s what we’re working on. When they use an exasperated tone with their siblings I hear my own exasperation in their voices and it doubles my determination to be kind.
I say, “Hey, remember we’re all working on using a kind voice. We can speak respectfully. Do you hear how my voice is calm?”
I apologize when I have snapped and say, “I’m sorry, I really snapped. We’re working on using kind voices. Let me try that again.”
It doesn’t mean I don’t get impatient. It doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated.
But when I’m angry, I’m thinking: ‘What if my job right now is to experiment with how it feels to handle frustrations while using a kind voice?'
I don’t have to get all the words right. I don’t have to know how to handle every discipline situation the right way. I can just experiment with using a kind tone even when I am upset.
And it’s working. Kindness is working.
Those kids crave kindness. They crave the answer to how to deal with their frustration in ways that don’t make them feel worse.
I’m seeing the kindness coming back in so many ways –
I’ve heard it when my 9 year old says, instead of an impatient, “MAMA, let’s GOOoooo!!,” “Mama, I know you like blogging, but isn't it time to go?”
And when I see them interact with each other I see them trying on kindness. “I want some time by myself,” instead of, “GO!! NOW!!!” They aren’t perfect -it’s pretty hard to remember to be kind when your brother is tormenting you to try and get a reaction, but I am seeing results.
Perhaps these kind moments have been here all along, after all, I am not the mean and yelling mama all the time myself. I think, however, that I’m seeing the kindness more because of our focus. Much like keeping a gratitude journal, having a focus on kindness is making us notice the kindness that surrounds us.
If you’d like to join us this month in using a kind voice as your habit, I’d love for you to let us know – what mantra or phrase will you say to yourself to yourself to remember your focus?
I’ll be adding more posts on this topic. You can find them all collected here: