Monday, March 15, 2010

Intentional Parenting – Part 7; Intentional Kindness

Maybe I was a bully, but I remember fighting with my sisters a lot as a kid. In fact, I remember feeling sick to my stomach when my parents would go out, leaving us home alone, because I knew the evening would end badly. Call me the sensitive middle child, but the fighting really bothered me.

I wouldn’t say I became “friends” with my sisters until I reached adulthood which, I know, is the way it is with many siblings. But I think part of the reason for that is because we just plain weren’t nice to each other when we were kids. (Feel free to chime in here anytime, girls.) It could have been so much better.

Now, I have to tell you that I feel like the world’s biggest hypocrite writing a post about kindness. I mean, my kids don’t exactly thwack each other on the head calling each other “Punk” on a regular basis, but they do have their moments. I sure don’t want you to think I’m raising perfect kids here. There is some bickering going on in this house—it’s inevitable with three teenagers hanging around.

And I certainly forget to act with kindness when my child has lost an important paper or she didn’t leave enough time to walk to school in the morning or when they interrupt my writing time. No, sometimes kindness goes out the window with patience and I’m left without two of the most basic tools I need to raise my kids. So frustrating.

The point of this blog series, though, is to think intentionally about things we do as parents—to be proactive about the behaviors we’d like to instill in our kids so that we don’t have to react later. And one of the behaviors I really want my kids to show is kindness to one another.

It may be one that we’re working on, but it’s a goal, and I think it’s a good one.

Why Kindness?
Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Do I need another reason?

Well, I do have another reason--the world is watching. When your kids have friends over, and those friends see your child interacting with her siblings, it says something about what you believe and who you are as a family. It shows what you value.

Do you value peace in your home? Then expect kindness.

Do you value self-sacrifice over selfishness? Then demand kindness.

Do you value forgiveness? Then practice kindness.

Maggie had a friend over one day, and after her friend left she told me that her friend was so surprised by the way Maggie’s older sister had treated her. She said, “Your sister is so nice to you. All my sister ever does is tell me to go away.”

Remember that old song, “They’ll Know We are Christians by Our Love”? That’s the idea here. The world is watching our families, checking us out to see if there is anything different about us. Believe me, if your kids are kind to one another the difference will show. Big time.

What does this look like?
Oh boy, on some days I honestly couldn’t tell you what kindness looks like. But on those good days, the days when our family seems to be clicking on all cylinders, the days when everything seems right with the world and within these four walls . . . on those days it looks like this:

“How was your day?”

“Can I help you with that?”

“Come on in.” (That’s me, practicing kindness when I’m sitting in my writing chair and someone interrupts me.)

“I love you.” (Yes, my girls say that to each other. Without my prompting anymore, either!)

“I forgive you.”

Kindness melts your heart. Kindness breaks down walls. Kindness heals wounds.

And there just isn’t enough of it in this world, so why not start now by intentionally making your home a haven of kindness for your kids?

I’d love to hear about how you instill kindness in your home. Leave me a comment about that. Pretty please?


  1. I wish I had suggestions, but I don't. My kids are very kind to each other when they are not mad at each other. How helpful is that? LOL.

    For me as a parent, and as a person, I'm not very sarcastic. Or mean. That helps. My kids might say otherwise, so we've been going over the difference between mean/angry and serious. I try to let them know I'm being serious when I'm reprimanding, not mean. And then I try better next time to get the message across without actually having to say it, KWIM?

    We do a lot of the "try again" and rephrasing a mean thing in at least a nicer tone. I have four kids, ages 8, 6, 4, and 2. The two middle ones have been at each other's throats lately!! But then, like I said, when they're happy then everything is like heaven.

    It's how to help them when they get angry that is the hard part.

    Good question! (I got here from a comment of yours at Musings of a Housewife.)

  2. Great post, Shelly. I value kindness in our home too. Many times when my daughter (age almost 11) had a friend over, she suddenly treats her younger brother (age 8) very badly. Like she thinks it's cool to do in front of her friends.

    I have pulled her aside more than once to remind her that she must treat her brother with kindness and respect no matter what. No one thinks it's funny when she rolls her eyes or makes fun of her little brother.

    I have to be intentionally kind too. It's hardest for me when I'm tired. I often put myself in a time out to pray when I'm really tired and I know I have several hours before bedtime.

    Oh, and I will take you up on your offer to take me to a swanky restaurant, should I be blessed to get that far with Moody. :)


  3. I love that "try again" reminder, Dawn. I do that too (even with teenagers) and it seems to help. I have to try again myself sometimes too! (Glad to have you over here from Jo-Lynn's place! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!)

    And, yes, I've had to do some pulling aside too, Sandy. It's kind of a last resort, especially in front of a friend, but sometimes you just gotta do it. (BTW, it's a date!)

    Thanks for the comments, girls!

  4. I love this and needed this today- the first day of Spring Break! ha!
    I try (TRY) to react calmly to my children as much as possible. And I expect them to react calmly to each other. I could comment for a while on this topic- I love it! Thanks for inspiring this morning.

  5. What a GREAT post and one of my very FAVORITE subjects!!!! I have raised three boys with a two year gap between each. My oldest two are now in college, and the youngest is 16.

    When most people think of three boys, they usually think about a lot of physical conflict (I think girl-conflict is more emotional and verbal...although I have heard about hair pulling and scratching).I also want to preface my comments by saying that we are NOT a perfect family, and we have had our 'moments', as well. We laugh about those conflicts now...because they were just that...moments...bad snapshots...NOT the video of their relationships with one another.

    I LOVE the word you used: intentional. Having a plan and sticking to it makes all the difference! We simply never permitted our boys to be mean to one another. And our emphasis has always been NOT on their outward behavior, but on their heart attitudes. Because it doesn't matter if they change on the outside, but are still rotten toward one another on the inside.

    In this season of their lives, my guys always hug one another and say, "I love you bro" whenever they are around each other. THAT sort of kindness makes parents' hearts glad!!!

    P.S. Reasons for not being kind would be interesting to discuss (sibling rivalry, feeling the need to put others down in order to elevate one's self, etc.)

  6. Oooh, Spring Break. Good luck with that one, Hillary!

    Hillcrest, I love your comments--thanks so much! And your perspective as a mother of boys is really helpful. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

  7. Thank you Shelly. This is actually very encouraging to me because for once I feel like I am doing something kinda right!

    With four kids they can get ugly. But we demand that they act "loving" - that is our word for kind. And if they can't be a loving addition to our family, then they need to go to their room until they are ready to change!

    (And, um, yes, my husband has sent me to my room before.)

  8. I hope you get lots of hits from you link!!!! This series is great. I'm learning a lot.


  9. Great to find you on today's link.

    We were very intentional parents in some areas (not all.) We really had a high value on our daughters being friends. I think it is easier to be kind to someone who is your friend.

    Our girls spent lots of time together, lots of shared experiences as we travelled around the world in missions.

    It must have worked. They are 28 and 25, are roomates, bests friends and most of the time, they are kind to each other.

    Thanks for reminding us that INTENTION really makes a difference.

  10. It was nice to find you on God Speaks Today. This is a great post on showing kindness! My kids are in the young teen years. Sometimes they are kind to each other and sometimes they are not. As a parent, I always try to be an example by showing kindness to everyone around me. I have had adults tell me how great my daughter, age 15, is. It makes my heart glad to know that she is showing kindness to others (though not to her younger brother sometimes) LOL.