We all want to be kinder parents. For our children to feel loved, cherished and respected. To know that we value them as the wonderfully unique and beautiful people they are. But how can we make that happen? Or at least, make it more likely than not 🙂
“People will forget what you said. People may forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
Kindness is a practical expression of our love. The more kindness our children experience, the more likely they are to feel truly loved. Acts of kindness build trust, strengthen our relationships and support our children to feel safe, secure and connected. And the bonus… when we’re kind to others, we’re more likely to be kinder to ourselves, everyone wins.
But when life gets busy and we’re struggling to get everything done, it’s easy to get lost in our own thoughts. Rushing through our to-do list, we get distracted and overwhelmed, unavailable for those we love the most. Signs of disconnection appear – in our own guilt and sadness, the moods and behaviour of our children or the physical chaos that begins to surround us.
That can be just the reminder we need to slow down and take a good look at our priorities. To be more intentional about how we live our lives and what kind of parents we want to be. Over the years this has happened to us more than once 🙂 We’ve thought a lot about how we can be kinder parents and we’ve found 6 ways that have helped, maybe they can help you too?
Of course, we’re not always as kind as we’d like, and sometimes not kind at all. We don’t always get it right. There are still difficult moments and difficult decisions. But giving some thought ahead of time, to the big picture, to the life we want for our children and ourselves, the more likely we’ll face these with our kindest heads on 🙂
Putting our relationships first.
We all get to choose where we put our attention, what matters to us most. And for us, that’s the relationships we have with our children. These come first. And knowing that, helps guide our daily interactions, our decision-making and our problem-solving.
We don’t want fears about the future, or the opinions and expectations of others to hijack our attention. If we get hung up on worrying what everyone else is doing or thinking, we risk damaging our relationships and leaning towards control as a means to an end. When what we really want is to nurture and support our children where they are, valuing and respecting them as individuals right now, not overriding their wishes and neglecting their needs on the basis that they’ll thank us for it one day.
“the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship.”
When we put connection and communication with our children first, it becomes easier to choose kindness. And much less likely that we’ll be willing to jeopardise those relationships by trying to manipulate our children with rewards and punishment. As we show ourselves worthy of their trust and respect, over time this is likely to be reciprocated.
As our relationships develop and our children grow, we begin to understand more about their unique character and personality, appreciating their strengths, their interests and the challenges they face. And though our relationships continue to evolve, we’re hopeful that the strong foundations on which they’re built will help them stand the test of time.
Making time for those relationships to grow.
Time is love. And relationships need time and attention to flourish. When we don’t invest in our relationships, they suffer. Building strong supportive connections with others requires effort and commitment, and it’s the same with our children. While the bonds we share with them are unique, they cannot be taken for granted. How we relate to our children matters, for today and for the future.
“Every time you speak or act, you build or break. The softer you can be, the more whole they will be.”
Childhood passes quickly and our children are changing all the time. There’s so much we can miss, if we’re not paying attention. If we want to get to know them and to strengthen our relationships we need to spend time together. Having fun, making memories and deepening our connections. Listening and learning as they share their hopes and their fears, their struggles and their dreams.
When we have lots in common with our children, this feels natural and easy. But sometimes they choose activities and interests that we don’t understand, that are outside our comfort zone or that we struggle to see value in. We may find ourselves tempted to limit their choices and make attempts to redirect their attention back towards our own preferences.
But in doing so we risk undermining our children’s confidence in themselves, their choices and our relationship. We’ve found that staying curious and willing to learn from our children, embracing their enthusiasm and suspending our judgement (at least until we find out more) can deepen our relationships and offer so many more fun ways we can spend time together.
Attempts to manipulate and control our children cloud their judgement and can push them closer towards what we fear rather than having the protective impact we intend. But if they feel trusted and respected then they are more likely to make considered choices and be open to hearing our genuine concerns.
Making a commitment to be kind.
Caring for our children takes up a lot of our time. The handy little graphic on this page can help us think about just how much time our children might need at different ages 🙂
Life is busy and our minds are likely full of a million different things we need to do and remember. No wonder we so often find ourselves in survival mode, reacting desperately rather than responding sensitively to the challenges of life. But if we can take a little time to consider how we want our children to remember us and the time we’ve shared together, we’re more likely to stay focussed on the important stuff.
We never know which moments will be frozen in time, destined to become the iconic snapshots and defining memories of their childhoods. So the more kindness we can show our children, the better friend and ally we are, the more chance they’ll look back fondly.
Making a commitment to be kind to our children can change the world. Kindness is contagious. And the idea that someone is always watching is never truer than for parents. Our children learn what they live and nurturing their natural instincts towards kindness and compassion by giving them as much of it as we can is the best chance we have to make sure they’ve got enough to share, with us and with everyone they meet 🙂
Our commitment matters. When we’ve made a commitment, declared our intentions and decided our priorities we’re more likely to put in the time and effort we need to succeed. We don’t want to fail, and we won’t give up at the first sign of trouble.
“Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality.”
Harnessing the power of reminders and using calming practices like meditation, yoga, walking and deep breathing can all help us to live more intentionally, follow through on our commitments and be our kindest selves.
Taking care of ourselves.
We all know that diet, sleep and exercise are important for our well-being. And when we’re lacking in any of these, life becomes more of a challenge and we struggle to shake off even the smallest irritations.
As parents we learn to pay attention to our children’s needs. We notice when they’re showing those tell-tale signs of flagging. We make sure they’re well fed and watered, have space to move their bodies and ample chance to rest somewhere cosy and warm. But when it comes to our own needs, we’re not always so conscientious.
Stressing our systems to the point of exhaustion isn’t good for us or our children. And if we can pay the same attention to our own needs that we do for our children, we all benefit. If we don’t take care of ourselves, then how can we expect to do our best taking care of others.
Drinking more water, getting to bed that bit earlier and making sure we’re getting enough exercise are all small and simple measures that give us a better chance of being the kinder parent we want to be. And by eating more raw, whole and vegan foods, we get to spread kindness to the planet and all those gorgeous animals too 🙂
Ditching the drama
Our interactions and experiences with the world are complicated. And then we go and add more layers of complexity with the stories we tell ourselves. As the centre of our own universe, its little wonder we often take things so personally.
And that when we’re offended or upset, we’ll often seek to justify our negative thinking, searching out the sad and the bad to confirm our worst fears. This might spark an emotional release and if we’re lucky, we get to cry or vent in a safe space. A good cry can make everything seem so much better. And as we move through our difficult emotions, we often emerge at the other side renewed with energy, hope and optimism.
But the danger comes when we linger in despair, blame and anger, losing sight of the many lenses through which our reality could be viewed.
To nourish our relationships, strengthen our bonds and really get to know our children better, it can help to release the ‘shoulds’, the ‘always’ and the ‘never’. Thinking of our children, ourselves, or anyone, as fixed entities – ‘they always forget stuff’, ‘they’re always late’. ’they never learn’ – damages our relationships and disregards the reality that we’re all growing, learning and developing as people throughout our lives.
What’s on our mind, we’re likely to notice more and more. And when we consider the common stereotypes of babies that need taming, terrible twos and tormented teens – maybe, sometimes, we get what we expect. Inviting challenges based on expectations rather than effectively communicating with, or respecting the reality of our children’s actual experience.
“Always carry with you a little reasonable doubt, should you meet someone who needs to be found innocent.”
But raising our awareness of the stories we tell ourselves and recognising the choices we have to interpret our experiences can help shift our focus. We can choose to look for the best possible explanation, extending kindness, compassion and the benefit of the doubt to ourselves and everyone we meet. Cultivating the art of letting go and moving on, accepting there are many things we cannot change but that we alone are responsible for our own thoughts and actions can free us from the tyranny of fear and worry running wild.
Rather than encouraging our children to go looking for the bad that is sure to come in threes, we want our children to appreciate the gift and beauty of each new moment as an opportunity to pause, to reflect and to begin anew.
Of course, this is all a work in progress and we’ll never be perfect. Some days, it’s easy to be a kinder parent and yet on others, it can feel almost impossible. But even on the toughest days, these 6 choices have really helped.
Wishing you a week full of kindness for you and your children x