From the day I felt him announce his presence in my womb, I dreamed of the man I would raise. I dreamed of man with big strong hands. Kind blue eyes and a heart of gold. A boy cub who radiated the foundation of God’s goodness, acted justly, loved faithfully, and humbly walked with God. (Micah 6:8)
I dreamed of a golden-haired boy that towered over me in his teenage years who knew in his soul, God was his rock even when he was battle worn. I wanted a son who knew God had trained his hands and heart for the everyday battle of loving others well. (Psalm 144:1)
But when I learned he couldn’t sit still in class, when I learned he tested the patience of his teachers, I felt I had somehow failed as a mom. Children with ADHD were a challenge in any school system. It felt as though I was challenged on a daily basis on his abilities to color inside the lines of his educational system. It seemed as though he always in trouble for some kind of infraction.
So, when my phone buzzed and twirled on my des on morning and I saw that it was his school—my stomach sank. I picked up the phone and sure enough, it was the principal. My son and a group of boys were in the principal’s office. On the way to the school, my thoughts were filled with:
I suck as a mom.
How can he be trouble in again?
As I sat in the principal’s office, all fingers were pointing at Elijah. All the eight-year-old boys thought it would be funny to lock all of the stalls from the inside and Elijah took the lead. Frustrated with the pointing fingers and the looming suspension from school for this prank, I cleared the room. No principle. No kids. Just us.
And what happened next broke my heart into a million little pieces.
In Elijah’s eyes, he did think it would be a funny prank. But as the boys were filing out of the bathroom—a teacher was walking in. This teacher had several disabilities which gnarled his hands and caused this teacher to walk with a limp and cane.
No sooner had the teacher entered into the boys bathroom, my son asked his friends to help him unlock the bathroom stalls. His friends scattered, too scared to get in trouble. But not Elijah, he rushed back into the bathroom, nearly knocking over the teacher in the process in order to slid under every stall to unlock the doors. His teacher saw him crawling under the last one when he asked what Elijah had been up to. My son didn’t lie or downplay the truth. He simply told the truth about the prank.
“Mommy, I didn’t want to make the teacher feel like we did it to him on purpose. I didn’t want him to be hurt by what we did. Any other boy could crawl underneath if they wanted to. But, I wanted to make sure he could get in,” Elijah said with a lisp and tears in his eyes.
Elijah was willing to pay the price for his stunt in order to ensure kindness was the bottom line.
In that moment, he taught me, kindness is seeing others with your heart.
As moms isn’t this what we want? Kindness seems to be nonexistent these days. The headlines consist of bullying, teen and tween suicides, and it breaks my heart. But that day Elijah made me realize, we as mothers have the power to teach our kids to be kind.
Being Kind is Caught Not Taught
The best thing we can do to make a world a better place is to create a culture of kindness in our homes.
Kindness is at the bottom of the nineth when there’s no time.
Kindness is found in school cafeterias, the school bus, the sidewalk, and everywhere in between.
Kindness is exposing yourself in the crowd and standing alone.
Kindness is paying for the woman in front of you who is pay for milk in quarters.
Kindness is the power to soften people’s hearts and remind them of our mere humanity.
Kindness is walking home with a child who is an outcast at school and has no friends.
Kindness is buying a pair of shoes and showing up on the teen’s doorstep because bullies thought it was funny to put them in the toilet.
Kindness is the ability to act for the welfare of others when our patience is tested.
Kindness is woven into our children’s spirits with the rest of the Fruit of the Spirit.
6 Strategies for Raising Kind Kids
In Romans 2:4, the apostle Paul puts it this way: “God’s kindness leads you toward repentance.” The Greek root for kindness, as used in the New Testament, means uprightness or benevolence and describes the ability to act for the welfare of those taxing our patience.
If you want your child, tween or teen to be kind, you’re wasting your breath. Lip service doesn’t do the trick. A recent study suggests parents have to work harder to show that they actually value things like helping an elderly stranger as much as they do getting A’s. Kindness isn’t taught, it’s caught.
Guard Your Gates
This phrase was the signal to my kids when they were little to cover their eyes and ears if something was bad on TV until I could change it. As they got older, it was a reminder to avoid anything that could expose them to things they couldn’t unsee or unhear. Now I use as a way to ensure nothing comes from their mouth or hearts that isn’t kind. A simple way of practicing mindful speech or actions: “Are you guarding your gates? Before you say a word, ask yourself: Are my words true? Are they kind? Are they helpful? Does it build someone up or tear them down?”
Walk the Walk
What you do and say is critical; let your child catch you in the act of kindness, offering a comforting word to a friend, taking meals to a mom in need, going out of your way to run errands for the elderly couple next door. Most parents start this role-modeling from day one. But it’s critical to model it more when our kids are tweens and teens.
Talk the Talk
Remember to practice kindness to your own kids. It’s tough when they are moody and have an attitude, but this when they need it most. Treat your child with respect in these moments. And when you see injustice happening in the moment, talk about it. Whether you’re at a concert, a sports game, at the pool or store—if you see someone being unkind, point it out and say why. Or even at home, you can say, “You know, Dad and I don’t always agree but we listen to each other and treat each other with respect instead of putting each other down.”
Remember Kindness isn’t Easy
“MENTOR A CHILD. WAIT PATIENTLY AT STARBUCKS WITHOUT EYE-ROLLING THE BARISTA, OR REFRAIN FROM AGGRESSIVELY HONKING AT A SLOW DRIVER.”-DR. ROBIN BERMAN
As moms, we definitely don’t tolerate name calling in the sand box and it’s the same when they are tweens or teens. The same goes when your son had a rough day at school and calls his sister stupid when she forgets to grab the mail. Acknowledge how their feeling and remind them their feelings do not get to dictate treating others unkindly. Point out their actions and point out others reactions, “Do you see how she winced and the tears in her eyes?”
Ask, “If you want something like being alone, what’s another way you can get it without hurting somebody else?” It’s also important to make sure the child who has been called the name isn’t feeling victimized, and encourage your child to apologize.
Don’t Let Rudeness Pass
You can say things like, “Wow, that server must be having a bad day. What do you think?” after he spoke to you in a rude manner. This teaches your child that when someone is actively rude towards you doesn’t warrant an rude, unkind, or aggressive response in return.
Be Kind to Yourself
Mama, this one is tough. How often do we absent mindedly call ourselves dumb or stupid when we forget something or burn dinner? How we treat ourselves speaks volumes to our kids. If you make a mistake, instead of berating yourself, say, “Oh, well, it’s okay—we all make mistakes.” And model care. Moms, this is VITAL. Our kids need to know loving others well starts with how well we love ourselves first.