Sending mixed messages about kindness


“Are you being kind and gentle?”

I ask Dom this question often. I ask it every time he is within the same breathing area as Pogi. That cat may allow Dom to do whatever, but then that means Dom does whatever. Poor cat.

I also ask Dom if he’s being kind and gentle with his baby sister, because: baby.

Why do toddlers have some intense desire to press on and/or hit the baby in the head? Soft spots are particularly attractive.

I want my children to be kind. I really do. I often think of my friend, Lizzie, who I met through soccer and went to school with. Sometimes, it’s rare to find kindness in sports. And in middle school. And in high school. Kids can be cruel in their quest to be cool.

Lizzie was always kind: as our goalie, on the basketball court, in the common area during lunch. I want my kids to be like that and it’s probably a trait learned by example. I should probably have them hang out with Lizzie and her kids all of the time.

Instead, they are home with me.

I found this article and it hit home: “Are you raising nice kids? A Harvard psychologist gives 5 ways to raise them to be kind.

Things I am doing wrong:

  1. Because I want to win the game, even when I’m playing with my toddler and it’s Richard Scarry’s Busytown game (which he loves and requests to play multiple times a week). BTW, you can’t win that game because in the end, everybody rides the ferry together to the pigs’ picnic on Picnic Island. We all win. Have a trophy.
  2. It’s faster to just clean things up myself. The times when I want Dom to clean up his own toys, I find that I am very good at standing with one hand on my hip, pointing with the other hand, “pick that up, then that, then that… do you want to earn a quarter or not?” Finger wag.
  3. Do they let you take a toddler and infant to help you serve lunch at a soup kitchen? Does anybody do regular service projects with small children? Yes. You do. You are better than me and I commend you.
  4. Not yelling. Who is my kid learning his temper from? Me, of course! I put myself in timeout today at lunch. I probably just need more chocolate, right? Chocolate solves everything…?

But really, the Harvard psychologist offered good tips that I do want to work on, in all sincerity:

  1. Emphasize caring over competing.
  2. Expect kids to help and reward uncommon acts of caregiving.
  3. Say thanks to others we interact with, like the person checking out our groceries.
  4. Do community service.
  5. Improve my own temper so that I can help my kids with handling their feelings.

How do you help your kids be kind and gentle? (Besides hanging out with Lizzie whenever possible.)


3 thoughts on “Sending mixed messages about kindness

  1. my current parental endeavors are a series of failures. i don’t really wanna write about it. your kids have lots of time still…and their mommy is way ahead in the awareness game. you can still introduce and incorporate anything you like into their lives. you’ll all be just fine.


  2. That first remark is so important at this age. Jude always wants to beat me to the door. He doesn’t want to race, he wants to win. So maybe having a discussion about how it’s not important if we win, it’s important if everyone has fun.


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