Kindness & Kids…

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Where does kindness start?

I think it starts with kids. After all, the kindest adults are often the ones who were the kindest children. Or, at the very least, who were taught the principles of kindness as a child.

As with most things, kindness is best learned from the beginning.

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Many parents are preoccupied with their children’s achievements, grades or happiness but how many place the same importance on whether their child is kind? If they had to choose between the attribute or the accomplishment, which would prevail?

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One cold and snowy winter day when my son was attending university, he noticed an elderly woman struggling to get to the bus stop as the bus approached. He cried as he recounted how she would have been able to catch the bus if he had only flagged it down.

That was a proud moment as a parent… to see how it broke the heart of my child to know he had missed an opportunity to extend kindness to someone who had especially needed it.

“You will never have a completely bad day if you show kindness at least once.” Greg Henry Quinn

While I am extremely proud of my son and all that he has accomplished, I am proudest of who he is as a person. All the accomplishments in the world can’t make up for lack of character.

Cultivating kindness in our children is an investment that will always pay off.

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Need some ideas?

  • Make extending kindness toward others a priority for your child. Help them understand the importance of being kind to everyone, and hold them accountable.
  • Create opportunities for your child to show kindness. Have them participate in the regular care of a pet. If you don’t have a pet, consider adopting a fish or a hamster. Taking care of another living thing encourages kids to think outside of themselves.
  • Expand your child’s range of influence. Volunteer as a family. Fill a shoebox together at Christmastime for a needy child. Suggest your child make a card to cheer up a sick friend.
  • Be your child’s role model and mentor. Kids learn kindness by watching the example of adults they look up to. As a parent, you hold a position of particular influence. There are so many teachable moments in your child’s life… take advantage of them.
  • Read your child a story from the Bible about kindness, such as the one about the Good Samaritan. Ask thought provoking questions like, “If a mean kid got hurt, would you laugh and say, ‘It serves him right!’ or would you stop and help”? or “Has there ever been a time when you’ve avoided helping someone? What would you do differently next time?”

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It’s far easier to teach kindness to a child than it is to unteach unkindness to a teenager or to an adult.

The Bible says to train up a child in the way he should go and that when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Notice that it says ‘train up‘. Train up from a young age. Train up when your child doesn’t understand kindness. Train up when your child doesn’t feel like being kind.

The practice of extending kindness to others works to soften our hearts and change us, and the same is true for kids. You can’t routinely go out of your way to be kind to others, and not have it change you in fundamental ways. Even if you’re only going through the motions, the day will come when you realize that you do, in fact, genuinely care.

No matter what your age is, kindness matters.

I kid you not…

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No kindness…

 

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We’ve all come across unkind people… some of us more than others.

And, if we’re being honest, we can all remember times when we were less than kind ourselves. Most of us look back on that with regret, wishing we had said or done things differently.

But, what about the person who’s decided that it’s justifiable to be habitually unkind to a specific person or specific people? It’s a slippery slope when someone decides that someone else is not worthy of kindness, and sets out to make their life as miserable as possible. The longer they persist in unkind words and behaviors, the more they tend to justify what they’re doing.

The result?

No remorse and a deadened conscience. They don’t consider stopping because they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong.

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The news is increasingly filled with stories of people who have exacted unkindness towards others… often in the extreme. People so hate-filled that they decided the target(s) of their hatred deserved death, and that it was ultimately worth dying for themselves.

Hatred has never made anyone see things more clearly. Or changed situations for the better. Or changed lives for the better.

Not even once.

Sometimes you have no choice but to be in close proximity to someone who’s intent on extending unkindness or hatred towards you. It’s damaging, demoralizing and demeaning. And, the longer you have to deal with it, the more negatively it affects you.

Trust me, I know.

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Hear me in this… it’s no kindness to let people continue unchecked in their unkindness or hate.

Sometimes the greatness kindness we can extend is to intervene, if it’s within our power to do so. Whether we are able to intervene directly or indirectly, our kindness will be kindness toward the one(s) being targeted, and kindness toward the one doing the targeting… even if they can’t see it as being such in the moment.

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The one caveat is that, while unkind or hateful people need to be dealt with firmly, they don’t need unkindness and hatred lobbied back at them.

Don’t confuse kindness with weakness. Those who refuse to retaliate or to respond in kind demonstrate strength, not weakness. So, be that person… not just an extension of the behavior you didn’t find acceptable in the first place.

How?

It never hurts to start with prayer.

Prayer gives us the proper perspective – God’s perspective – and guides us in the right things to do and say.

Pray for yourself, pray for the hurting, pray for those who do the hurting, pray for change, and pray for healing.

It’s hard to hate someone that you pray for. In fact, try praying every day for a month for someone you hate… or simply don’t like… and see what happens.

Even if they don’t change, you will.

The moral of the story?

Act kind, not in kind

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Kindly consider…

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Kindness is something that’s not easy to define, yet somehow everyone knows when someone is being kind… or unkind.

As Christians, we’re called to do two things… love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbour as ourselves. According to the Bible, “There are no commands more important than these” (Mark 12:30-31 NCV).

Kindness is at the very heart of love, perhaps emphasized by the fact that there’s an actual word that ties the two together… loving-kindness.

The extent to which we are kind conveys the extent to which we love.

Being kind comes at a price. It requires going out of our way for someone else, and that will always cost our time, energy, or resources… sometimes all three.

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This past week, my husband and I went out of our way to do something we really didn’t want to do but something that we felt was important to do for someone close to us. Quite honestly, it didn’t feel the greatest… or even very comfortable. We don’t know if it made a difference, and we may never know. But regardless, it was the right thing to do. The kind thing to do.

The thing about kindness is that it’s what you do whether anyone notices or not. Whether it’s appreciated or not. Whether you’re given recognition for it or not. Because true kindness is never self-serving or self-important.

An act of kindness can be something as small as sending someone an encouraging note. Or helping someone carry their groceries. Or holding a door open for a senior. The options are limitless. We just need eyes to see opportunities because they’re literally all around us.

What’s the payoff?

Kind people are happier. People who focus on others are always much happier than people who focus on themselves.

The bottom line is that kindness is a necessary stop on the road to joy.

Seriously?

Yeah, kinda…

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Loving-kindness…

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A number of years ago, I attended a motivational business seminar where I had the opportunity to participate in the following exercise. The room divided into groups of three, one of whom was chosen to be ‘the tree’… standing with their arms extended out to the side, like branches. When the seminar leader gave the cue, the remaining two members of each group took an arm and tried to push it down to the person’s side as they made positive statements about them.

You’re a great person. You’re really nice. You’re a hard worker. You make people happy. You have a great sense of humor. You’re kind.

When the seminar leader instructed everyone to stop, we discovered that not one group had been able to push down the arms of the people with their arms extended.

The second part of the exercise was identical, with the exception of the statements verbalized. As group members tried to push down the arms of the other member in their group, they instead made negative statements about them.

You did a terrible job. You never do anything right. No one likes you. You’ll never be able to do that. We don’t want you in our group.

The result was surprising. Everyone’s arms folded like a deck of cards. Not one person was able to keep their arms extended in the face of negative input.

The people and the methods were the same in both exercises. The only thing that varied was the words that were spoken. The lesson was unmistakeable. Our words have the power to either build others up or to tear them down.

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I thought of that exercise again recently with the challenge I’ve been having trying to incorporate one 35 minute daily walk into Charlie’s life (our 19 month old purebred British bulldog). The main challenge has been that Charlie doesn’t want to walk. He doesn’t even want to leave the property. If he could talk, I’m sure he would point out that British bulldogs are physically built to excel at naps, not walks. And I don’t think he appreciates my rationale that one short walk a day still leaves him with 23 1/2 hours a day for napping.

So, each walk has started like this. I put Charlie on the leash… we go out the door and down the steps. Charlie thinks he’s going for a pee but then, at some point, realizes that was only ‘Phase 1’ of the outing. I start walking toward the end of the driveway but then Charlie puts the brakes on… basically plants his feet and becomes a 49 pound stone. So, I brace the leash across the front of my legs while continuing to slowly walk forward until he eventually has no choice but to follow. This pattern continues for many blocks until Charlie suddenly shakes off his protestations, and inexplicably walks beautifully beside me for the rest of the walk.

I can attest to the fact that I’ve tried everything to get Charlie to be less resistant for the first part of his walk. My theory that he would remember his walk from the previous day, and that it would motivate him to eventually walk willingly right from the beginning never took flight. Instead, each day was like Groundhog Day, with practice becoming permanent.

But I recently came up with the idea to praise Charlie the minute he walked – particularly near the beginning of our outing when the walking didn’t tend to go so well. Now, even if Charlie drags his feet, as long as he’s walking, it counts as walking… and I instantly praise him. Good boy, Charlie. If he plants his feet the next moment, I say nothing except ‘Come’ and just keep moving ahead until he has no choice but to follow. I’ve wanted Charlie to associate praise with the action of walking, and have hoped it would prove to be motivating.

Guess what? It’s working!

Until I tried this little experiment, I never said anything positive OR negative to Charlie on our walks… just mostly things like ‘Come’ or ‘Yes, you’re going to walk’ (the latter quite possibly through gritted teeth). But, something as simple as giving words of praise for something that genuinely merits praise has made all the difference.

I can’t say that Charlie is 100% onboard with his walks just yet. He still plants his feet in the driveway when he realizes that we plan to actually leave the property but his resistance doesn’t continue too far beyond that anymore when, not so long ago, it was a battle of wills for literally many blocks.

It made me think of the word ‘loving-kindness’… meaning tenderness and consideration toward others. I think there are many ways we can show loving-kindness to those around us – including the Charlie’s in our lives – but one of the most powerful ways is through our words. Of course, extending loving-kindness through our words means nothing unless our actions back them up but I truly believe there’s nothing quite like our words to build others up in a way that few other things can.

Don’t let on to Charlie but I think our daily walk has become the highlight of his day. I know it’s become the highlight of mine…

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Choosing 20/20 vision…

blog 3I used to have perfect vision.  In fact, at one time, I had better than perfect vision… 20/10.  But, as time went by, my vision began to fade.  First my reading vision and up close vision, then my distance vision, and now I need to wear glasses with progressive lenses in order for my vision to be 20/20.

But, the truth is that true 20/20 vision has nothing to do with sight and everything to do with seeing.

I’ve been thinking about all the people I encounter in any given day and what possibly lies behind the various facades they present.  If I knew what was really going on in their lives, the things they were coping with, would I see them differently?  Would I interact with them differently?

The short answer is yes.

So, my goal is to treat people as if I already know those answers.  I want to give people the benefit of the doubt more, to go out of my way for others more, to be more compassionate in general.  To hopefully add a bit of joy to someone’s day that they might not have experienced otherwise.

It has been said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

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Sometimes we don’t see that because we’re too caught up in a hard battle of our own.  But, far more often, I think we just forget that everyone has a back-story.  We’re not the only ones.

I’ve found it somewhat amazing what happens when I take the time to really see, and to let it change how I interact with people.  People’s defenses come down and many times, they volunteer part of their back-story unprompted.  When people sense you care, I find they will tell you most anything.  I always feel privileged when people confide in me.  It helps sharpen my vision.

Of course, there are always people who make it extra difficult to see past the walls they’ve put up.  Often, they’re angrier, more blog 4confrontational, more in your face.  To be honest, I’m not always successful at being as kind and patient and compassionate as I would like in those instances but I’m working on it.  Personally, I think people with the biggest walls need kindness more than most.

I have to remember that I may never know the difference I made in someone’s life, or even in their day.  There are people who have touched my life who would be very surprised to know it.  I also need to remember that I may end up making a difference in the life I least expect to.  All reasons to be consistent in how I treat people.

20/20 vision is a choice.  And I don’t mean Lasik.

It’s simply three words

“Be kind anyway”.

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