“Your influence as a mother is powerful. Don’t waste it. Little eyes are watching you.” ~ Author Unknown
In a world where the spotlight always seems to be on bullies and trolls, it is easy to feel disempowered and worried for your children. But as Sara Keli explains, it’s not all doom and gloom and teaching our kids to sprinkle kindness and to respect and value others can be one of the greatest lessons you teach them.
It’s a lot of pressure to be a mum. It doesn’t take you long to realise that they are little sponges; soaking up every single thing they see and hear. Babies quickly learn to mimic a smile or a funny face and toddlers are always experts at using the appropriate expletive when they drop their bowl of yoghurt on the kitchen floor. They take it all in, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Perhaps more subtle is how they adapt to our mindsets, biases and attitudes. Each and every day, in our every action, we are giving them cues about behaviour and what is acceptable. The way we talk to other people, our body language and the way we talk about ourselves. We are their first teachers, and they, in many ways, ours.
So when it comes to raising children with kindness, respect and tolerance of others, it’s important that we role model those behaviours. Your actions will have a far greater impact on their little minds than any conversation can ever have.
Monkey see, monkey do
Practice kindness towards others and call out when others are kind to you. It seems to be a dying custom but I always give a thank you wave to cars if they allow me to merge in traffic. My daughter was curious as to why I was thanking strangers so I explained that the person was kind and it’s important to acknowledge that. More often than not when I am merging in traffic, she will now say “that was kind of that car, wasn’t it Mummy?”
Teach positive self-talk
Such a huge part of kindness is how we talk about ourselves. We can be kind to others but if our self-talk is full of negativity where does that leave us? Encourage your kids to celebrate their successes, to be self aware and talk kindly about themselves. Every day, usually while we are in the car, my daughter and I will take turns in saying kind things about ourselves. I love to hear how she sees herself and want to show her that it’s important to love yourself first. Your own negative self-talk might even surprise you as it creeps in when you are thinking of those kind things to say about yourself!
Own your mistakes
We’re all human and we make mistakes. We lose our cool and yell at our kids when they don’t deserve it, or we have a bad day and regret something we said or did. On these occasions it is so important that you own your mistakes. Let them see that it’s ok to make mistakes, but it’s how you handle them afterwards that matters the most. Talk to them about why you are apologising and encourage them to talk about their feelings. Empathy is a vital tool for kindness and respect!
Encourage random acts of kindness
Kindness is like a drug. The more of it you give and receive, the more you want! Random acts of kindness are particularly powerful. Whether they take in a flower to put on their teachers desk before school, or they draw a picture to leave in an elderly neighbours letterbox, random acts of kindness help to teach children that kindness is infectious and they can play a role in spreading the kindness around.
Kindness is a mindset
A kindness mindset helps us approach our interactions with others with empathy. But kindness and respect is about more than how we treat people. It is about how we treat ourselves, how we treat our environment and how we think about issues in society. Encourage your kids to be aware of their behaviour and to think not just about themselves, but rather about the impact they have in the world. As Steve Jobs said, “The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Let’s teach our kids to sprinkle the world with kindness and to value respect and tolerance as the go about being the world changers of tomorrow.
Sara Keli is the Editor of Kid Magazine. When she isn’t writing, designing or creating, you can find her enjoying the sunshine on her back deck with her two daughters or escaping into a good book.
Image: Elise Garner, lecoco.com.au