My husband and I are coming up on our 12th anniversary, next month. Our anniversary happens to be our daughter’s birthday, and this year, Mother’s Day as well. Talk about a day to celebrate. 🙂 We have had our ups and downs in our relationship, at times we truly struggled, however, at this point our relationship is stronger than it’s ever been. So when I saw this article in my Facebook stream today, I had to take a look. (Go ahead, click the link, read the article, it will open in a new window). I wanted to know if we had the 2 basic traits. 😉
Turns out… we do.
However, as I was reading the article I realized the relationship I don’t always have those 2 basic traits in… is the one with my daughter. The research makes perfect sense… and as I was thinking, it makes perfect sense to carry those traits into all of our relationships we want to be meaningful, not just the one with our significant others.
I started thinking about the times when my relationship with my daughter is good… and when it is rocky. Turns out the rocky times are the ones missing the two basic traits… which revolve around kindness.
It’s funny… I thought it was patience I was missing. I thought it was patience I needed to be the kind of mom I want to be… and of course, I do, however… I am beginning to think kindness might be an even more important element.
So I got to thinking… how can I show kindness, through out the day… based on the research?
10 Simple Ways to Show Kindness to Our Kids
1. When she points something out to me, look up, notice, engage.
This may be something she sees from the car, a deer, a pheasant, a cardinal. Even if I’m listening to music, or a podcast on the radio, I can take a second to look, see, and engage with her about what she’s seeing. This is called “turning toward” the other person, in the research. When someone reaches out to you, attempts to connect with you, and you turn away from them by ignoring, or brushing them off, you are showing them they are not worth connecting with, and if it continues over time, your relationship will deteriorate.
2. When she wants to show me something… get up, and go look. Smile. Engage.
The example that comes up immediately for me, is our snap peas. We planted them a few weeks ago… some are coming up, some aren’t, and every day she wants to check on them. Every day she screams, MOM! Come look at this. The snap peas are about the same as they were the day before. I often find myself say mmm hmmm. That’s nice. or Not right now… but I now see this is a perfect opportunity to pour kindness into our relationship. It’s a way for us to connect and strengthen our relationship. It’s difficult when you’re tired, and busy, to drop everything, and check the snap peas… but really, what’s it going to take? 2 minutes? You have (and I have) 2 minutes.
3. Notice when she does something well and let her know.
It’s so easy to notice when she does things wrong, or not quite right, leaves things laying around, doesn’t do a chore all that well, doesn’t make her bed, or when you can’t see the floor through all the toys. It’s easy to repeatedly comment on all those things. However, what if it was the good stuff we started noticing. When she pets the cat gently and kindly, when she takes her dishes to the kitchen after dinner, when she plays the piano nicely without banging on the keys? There are many many things our kids do well during the day… it’s up to us to start noticing them, and letting our kids know we noticed. Funny thing… the more you focus on the good things, I can almost guarantee the more good things there will be to notice.
4. Look for things to appreciate about her, and tell her.
I can get in a state, where I see, hear, and feel sass. All.the.time. She’s 9, and fighting for her independence. She’s her own person, and wants to exert her individuality, which sometimes feels like a slap in the face to me. However, there are so many times she is wonderful, and sweet, and kind. Those moments are easy to miss when I’m focused on how sassy she’s been most of the day. Don’t let those moments slip by. Start looking for them… be an appreciation detective. Be on the look out for things you can appreciate about your kiddo, then tell them. A lot. The more you share what you appreciate about her, the more there will be to appreciate (because you’ll notice it more, and she’ll probably start doing more things you appreciate). This can only deepen and strengthen your relationship.
5. When we don’t agree on things, or see things eye to eye. Still be kind.
As parents we may feel like we are the ones in charge, like we have the power in the relationship. That’s got to be frustrating for kids who are trying to feel their way into their independence. It’s easy to just put your foot down, and expect your kids to fall in line because “you’re the boss”. Remember, even if you feel you’re the boss of the family, be kind. Use a kind tone of voice. Let your kids know you hear them, even if the answer is still no. How you behave in a disagreement with your kids is how your kids will behave in a disagreement with you and others.
6. Give her the benefit of the doubt. Don’t assume she’s doing things “just to annoy me” or for other equally negative reasons.
The article uses a great phrase… Be generous about your partner’s intentions. It’s so easy to make up stories about why people are doing what they’re doing. The trouble is… the stories of bad intent are the easiest ones to make up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said… “She’s just doing that to make me mad/get my goat/get me to react/drive me crazy.” Chances are… she’s not. Chances are, she’s being an 8 year old, and I’m tired and overwhelmed and could just as easily choose to create a different story, and be generous with my assumptions about her intentions.
7. When she succeeds, whether on a test, or a video game, celebrate with her! (even if I’m tired, and she’s already won the game 18 times that day.)
Yesterday, she was playing TurboType. It’s a typing game. She plays it almost every day. She’s been coming in 5th every time (that’s last lol). But yesterday… she came in first! She was so excited. I was busy, and my head was wrapped up in other things. She was yelling about how awesome it was to come in first, and I was trying to brush her off. But I looked over, and the smile on her face. She was absolutely glowing! It got me excited too. She’s been working on this for weeks now… I stopped what I was doing, and we celebrated. Nothing big, just me, engaged with her, looking at her, noticing her, clapping and being excited. I could see in her face how much she appreciated it.
8. Be generous with smiles. Stop. Look up. Smile warmly when she comes into a room.
It seems silly, but stop and think back for a moment. There was a time in your life when you stepped into a room and someone was glad you were there. Think about how that felt. That’s the feeling we need to give our kids every day. Let them know you’re glad they’re there, it’s as easy as a smile.
9. Don’t hold a grudge. Let it go. Whatever it is. Start each moment with a clean slate.
Kids, well, my kid at least, is an expert of letting go. She can be furious one moment, and 2 minutes later she’s happy as a clam, as though nothing ever ruffled her feathers. Me, not so much. I hold on to stuff. I hold on to irritation, aggravation, anger, and frustration. It almost feels like people need to “pay”. It’s an awful feeling. There are times though, when she reminds me just how easy it is to let go, and I think to myself… I could just let this go. Right now. I breathe deep and blow out the ugly. I allow myself to be happy, even though people may not have “paid enough”. Just let it all go, and remember this moment is a good one, enjoy it.
10. Find something you can enjoy together. Do it. As often as possible.
I recently decided to train for a 5K. Once I got started Hanna decided she wanted to do it with me. Turns out, it’s really fun to have an 8 year old running partner. She’s in a lot better shape than I am, and she runs faster too! It’s also really fun to have a common goal we’re working toward. Whether it’s playing Horseopoly, gardening or training for a 5K find something you can do together and do it!
Kindness can be so easy to forget in the hustle and bustle of every day life. However, if we can just stay present, in this moment, it is possible to choose kindness. I have shared 10 simple ways to show kindness to your kiddo, but there are a million more… choose a few and use them often. When we choose kindness, we deepen our relationships and create bonds that hard to break.