I had my first baby – a beautiful, brown-eyed girl named Amethyst – when I was barely 21. By the time I was 28, I had four little kids and I was a full-time mother. The demands on my heart, my body, and my mind were overwhelming. I needed a path through motherhood that allowed me to give deeply to my children while not losing myself. I was struggling with anger, resentment, and exhaustion and I didn’t want to live frazzled and upset all the time. It wasn’t doing any wonders for me, my kids, or my marriage, either.
Things started to change when I moved away from being reactionary and I stopped letting my emotions decide how I would respond to the things going on around me. Things changed when I chose kindness over and over; things changed when I started making kindness the important starting point of all of my actions. I became:
- Kinder at Heart
- Kinder in Body Language
- Kinder in Words
- Kinder in Everyday Actions
- Kinder to Myself
It’s has been quite the journey. I’ve both done well and failed miserably. But I believe this is the mystery of human existence. We don’t get to do it perfectly; we get to do our very best.
Kindness is an Action
Kindness is an action. It’s an action toward another person that is full of patience, gentleness, and sympathy. It’s affectionate and full of love. Kindhearted Parenting uses the action of kindness as the starting point of your parenting. It’s the choice to use patience, gentleness, sympathy, affection, and love when making parenting decisions.
When I look back over my journey, I have no regrets. My decision to change from reactionary parenting to using kindness strategically brought incredible benefit to my life and to the life of my family. Allowing kindness to lead our lives has created a joyful, peaceful family environment. We have strong bonds and fierce loyalty. We enjoy each other, respect each other, and believe we are the lucky participants in each other’s story.
But how do we become kind parents? Where do we start? I’ve created a list of ways to start using kindness as the basis for everyday decisions. while they are broad topics, some day to day ideas are listed, too.
5 Ways to be a Kindhearted Parent
1. Kind in words: People in influential positions (leaders, famous people, the pope, a pastor, a coach, etc.) have to use their words carefully because their position gives their words more value. It’s the nature of being influential. As a parent, it’s important to realize you are the first influential figure in your kids life. Take some time to consider your words and their tone. What are you communicating? We want our words to communicate good things to our kids about their life, their surroundings, and them. We want to be a safe place so they can have every advantage of growing strong mentally and personally. When you’re speaking to your child, consider a few things: do your words communicate love, are they patient, are they full of affection? Challenge yourself to change the tone you use, to speak softer, to listen and consider before speaking, and to use more words of affirmation.
2. Kind in body language: Body language has everything to do with communication. We communicate almost all of our thoughts and feelings with our body before any words are said. Even young children pick up on body language even thought they might not be aware of their impressions. There is also the idea of kindness in action. Remember kindness incorporates affection, sympathy (we can add empathy too), patience, and gentleness. When you are speaking to your child there are a few things you can do to add kindness to your body language. You can smile while listening, get down on a young child’s level so you are eye to eye, and keep your body relaxed. When older kids talk to you don’t sigh or make frustrated noises when they are speaking, learn different listening styles, and, try not to frown while listening.
3. Kind in everyday actions: A big part of Kindhearted Parenting is to look for ways to use the different techniques we talk about in everyday ways. It’s looking for ways to show kindness in everyday actions. For instance you can use kindness by showing happiness to help your child, taking time to play a little longer together just because, relaxing your body and voice when correcting their behavior, choosing to speak calmly instead of yelling, picking up their favorite snack while at the store, making their favorite dinner, waking them up with a soft tone and a smile, and more. There are a million ways to add patience, love, empathy, etc. to your everyday activities.
4.Kind at heart: Being kind isn’t being “nice” outwardly but letting kindness work its way into our hearts and thoughts. It’s the difference between being genuine and being fake. This has to start on the inside at the very core of who we are. Sometimes how we are kind to our kids doesn’t feel nice – like saying no to a candy bar before dinner.
5.Kind to myself: Kindhearted Parenting is learning to be kind to ourselves as we parent. Parenting is an extraordinarily tough task. It requires us to engage on a deep level with another human being and guide them forward on their own unique path. This is not a simple task to take on each day. Some people are naturally geared toward the ins and outs of parenting while others are not. Each parent feels challenged and unprepared at times. Each parent will have feelings of being worn out, angry, or ready to give up. Being a Kindhearted Parent isn’t just learning to be lead each with kindness toward our kids, but also leading with kindness toward ourselves. It took me a long time to get the hang of kindness toward me and how it worked within the framework of family but I am so glad I took the time to learn. I think it helps us stay the course and finish the job of raising children strong.
I think one of the most rewarding parts of parenting this way has been watching my kids take on these values and incorporate them into their everyday actions. When one of my kids is genuinely kind to one of their siblings and takes the time to pay attention to them and put them first, it brings a lot of joy. When one of my kids engages me in conversation and listens to me and asks interesting questions about my day, I’m surprised family gets to be so sweet.
Research shows that being kind to another human being does so much for our mental health. Kindness breeds feelings of contentment and joy. It encourages others to “pay it forward” by being kind to the next person they see. Kindness, thankfulness, smiling, and more each contribute to the upward movement of the hearts around us. This is true in the simple act of being kind to your child. Including kindness in your daily life will increase feelings of happiness. It’s a worthy goal to live this way and to receive the abundant blessing of living like this day to day.
Kindhearted Parenting is what my husband, Eric, once called our parenting style and it stuck. It’s the choice to parent from kindness – using words and actions that communicate kindness to our children. It’s not passive but an action