Teaching Kids to Be Both Strong and Kind
They can be both!
Posted Apr 12, 2018
Worrying about possible drug use, alcohol abuse and drunk driving; concerns about smoking and vaping; pushing kids too hard to succeed in school and at sports; providing a home and financial support; paying attention to grades and schoolwork; getting them to eat healthy and go to church or temple or simply disconnect and get outside... the list of things parents have to worry about and focus on is long.
There are emotional needs, physical needs, and lifestyle needs. And technology has made it harder on parents – no more sitting in the living room watching their television shows with them; they are streaming it on their phones, finding resources and information on YouTube, and constantly learning new ways to access connections that parents then struggle to learn about.
It’s not your imagination. Parenting has gotten more difficult. When you think about parenting, you might think about all the things listed above, but consider adding one more aspect to your toolbox of “things to focus on” – teaching your kids the fine balance between being strong and sticking up for themselves and what they believe in, and being kind. It may seem like a disconnect – “only the strong survive” and “nice guys finish last” are some of the adages – but teaching kindness, in a world that seems to reject it more and more each day, may be the only way to help your children survive and thrive throughout their lives.
Being strong does not mean being a bully. In fact, the truly strong person has developed an inner core that allows them to withstand whatever life throws at them, including bullying and naysaying. The strong individual has developed an inner confidence that allows them to believe in themselves no matter what happens. What are some things parents can do to help their children be strong, but not overbearing?
- Teach them to recognize their own triggers and learn what upsets them or throws them off their game. Why learn this? Because the more a person knows about their triggers, the sooner they have a chance to deal with them in a less emotional and more direct manner. The more upset you become, the more likely you are to “blow” your top, or to go inward.
- Practice direct, non-violent language. Instead of “I hate you”, say “I get very negative when you ask me to do something I don’t like to do”. Help them assess their response and connect their comments to the actions, not the person. Hint: As the adult, it is critically important that you model this behavior, too.
- Stand for something. Help your children find something they care about and something they believe in. Allow them to volunteer, write letters to someone they admire about something important, become educated about what’s happening around them (yes, even young children can learn to care about their environment and their world). The more they have an inner core that stands for something, the less likely they will be to fall for anything.
Doing all of the things listed above can help them develop an inner core, but without kindness and compassion a strong person can fall victim to too much intensity and possible narcissism as they age.
- Give your children access to animals and how to care for them. If you can afford a pet, get one for your child. Allow the child to take part in caring for the pet. Children have a natural affinity for animals (unless they have been taught otherwise) and there is no greater gift than learning how to take care of something that needs you. If you cannot afford a pet, consider taking your child to a local animal shelter to meet the animals who are stuck there, or see if you can “borrow” time with a neighbor’s or friend’s animals. Hint: As an adult, you have a responsibility to model kindness to animals. Watch your own behavior.
- Get your kids outside and help them appreciate nature and the environment. Do your kids appreciate a sunset? Do they respect all living things? Do they understand the interconnectedness of everything? Show them a butterfly and teach them about the butterfly effect and chaos theory – everything links to something else. Having this awareness helps children to understand that they are not separate from what they see, but rather connected to it all.
- Teach them that words do hurt. “Sticks and stones…” is not a good mantra. Help them to understand that what you say and how you say it matters a lot. It’s fine to give negative feedback, it’s okay to be angry or upset, but how you display it cannot be taken back once it is given. Teach them about social media and how everything that gets put in writing stays there forever, even after you press “delete”. Stand up for yourself – be strong – but choose how you do it wisely.
As a parent, be conscious of what you say and how you say it. Children are watching and will do what you do, not what you say. Be a strong, and kind, role model for them to follow.