Kindness is so trendy right now. It's a buzzword like authenticity or mindfulness or collaboration.
And I can’t help but be a fan. We’d be crazy after all, not to want to raise kinder, more caring kids. I just think that in all the talk about kindness we've forgotten who's really responsible for raising kids that value the best in others.
In 2012, my friend, Ginny, and I started a club in our neighborhood called The Princess Generation. It began as a response to something I was feeling whenever I looked at my two daughters, then ages twelve and four. I noticed that twelve-year-old princesses were those girls who primped and preened and demanded attention wherever they went, while the four-year-old variety was generally regarded as adorable and endearing. “She’s such a little princess,” had two very different connotations when the words were directed at each of my daughters separately.
The mission of The Princess Generation was straightforward: to redefine what it meant to be a princess by raising up a generation of young women wholly devoted to serving others.
Kindness matters! Be nice! Turn the other cheek! Give! Share! Love! Yeah, we did all those things. Actually, I think those first kids were a little overwhelmed--and bored. We did some service projects, but mostly it was a few grownups doing a whole lot of talking.
Some things can’t be explained; they can only be experienced.
Kindness is one of those things.
My kids attend a National School of Character. The #BEKIND movement is alive and well. Even our church makes serving easy. But all that access to kindness will be lost on my kids if I’m not kind.
We are our kids’ first and best teacher. If our kids are going to grow up to be kind, caring adults it will not only be because of the robust character education program at their school or their participation in a shoebox ministry at Christmastime;
It will be because of US.
When we first started Princess Generation, we also required moms to attend with their kids. Over the course of that first year, we learned a very powerful lesson.
Kind kids are born of kind parents.
Here's what that looks like in real life:
- We cannot criticize our friends publicly. Even if we are annoyed by something they say on Facebook or do in public, we must always, always speak kindly of others in front of our children.
- They need to see us doing kind things--without making a big deal about it. Picking up other people's trash while picking up our own dogs' doo doo, offering a cold drink to contractors who visit our home, holding doors, and waiting patiently in lines are all easy and kind.
- When our children see us giving, they need to see that it's coming from the overflow of our hearts, not just the overflow of our closets and pantries.
- We need to talk about the things we see on TV or read in the newspaper that don't jive with our personal values. We need to engage our kids in conversations about how to be better members of our community and of our world.
And most importantly,
- We must be kind to our kids and our kids' friends. We need to be the parent we wish we had when we were their age.
Today, my youngest daughter was frustrated because she was having a “bad hair day.” She was crying and thrashing about. She came downstairs demanding that I make an appointment at the hair salon right that very minute.
I can only imagine the downward spiral that would have occurred had I brashly told her to stop talking to me like that and to go to her room and not come out until she had a better attitude—OR ELSE.
She should remember that I’m the mom and she’s the kid and she should do what I say—NO MATTER WHAT.
I had every right to demand an apology because--I DESERVE RESPECT.
All those things are true, but my little daughter is also a person and deserves to be treated with honor and dignity. Why? Because she matters, and I love her. By showing her that she matters, my prayer is that she’ll show others that they matter.
So instead of enforcing my "mom card" I told her I understood her frustration, but that she needed to take a step back for a minute. She went upstairs and shut (okay, let’s be honest, slammed) her bedroom door. A few minutes later I received this text:
“I planned on having a good day today, but it doesn’t seem to be going that way.”
I responded, “I’m sorry you’re having a bad day. We’ll get your hair situated, but you can’t freak out. You can be upset, but let’s calmly work out a plan for dealing with it.”
And then a minute later, this emotionally mature text: “Can we start over and make it a better day?”
And I said, “Yes! Definitely!”
She came downstairs and asked to fold the towels that were in the dryer. I’m not even kidding! I cannot make this stuff up! It really happened, and I'm as shocked as anybody!
We don’t always get this right, but after more than two decades of working with kids, I know that the kindest kids are born from the kindest parents. I'm still learning how to do that well, how to be the person I want my kids to be. I have three teenagers now (and a ten year-old), but it's never too late. Never to late to start fresh.
Questions for Reflection:
- What do you need to change right now?
- Are you holding a grudge against someone that's coming out in the words you use while you're with your family?
- Are you frustrated about something?
- Are you complaining or being an active participant in making it better?
- Are you including your kids in conversations about the things you value? Do your actions match your words?
Back in 2012, we put together a little how-to booklet called "How to be a PRINCESS." We thought it would be fun to resurrect it here.
Parents unite! We're cheering for you!
Click the button below to access the guide.