Building Healthy Practices Around Kindness for You and Your Children
Isn’t it ironic how often we tell our children to be kind? As a mother, I know I tell my children at least 3 times a day to be kind in one way or another.
“Please be kind.”
“Please make kind choices.”
“Be kind to your sister.”
“Be kind to your brother.”
“Was that a kind thing to do?”
You’ll notice here, that these kindness suggestions are pointing outside oneself, rather than in. A showing of kindness to another person. And while being kind to other humans is certainly a worthy attribute, I wonder if we are not missing a crucial piece here. Or maybe it is just me and my parenting habits. Do we frequently remind our children to be kind to themselves? Do we remind ourselves to be kind to ourselves?
Self-care is everywhere right now. While it is important and I am grateful that people are discussing it, maybe we should start this whole process a little earlier. Like, in childhood. Both on good days and challenging days.
How to Rethink Kindness
How do we do this? The same way we taught outward kindness, I suppose. Here’s how I attempted to do this today.
Prior to heading to a local parade, my middle child attempted to fill his water bottle by himself. While I appreciate the attempt, he ended up spilling at least 30 oz of water all over the kitchen island, which proceeded to drip onto the chairs and floor.
Now, it was just water. Not a huge deal, right? Right.
But—this happens fairly frequently. We have water puddles most days of the week with infrequent clean-up afterward. Additionally, my middle and his siblings had been quite rambunctious prior to the big spill. So Mama came in a little intense, as she is wont to do
[She being me, is still a work-in-progress, but I digress].
He was upset and struggling to clean up all the water. Seeing this, I grabbed a bath towel and began to help while requesting some information about the events that occurred prior to the spill. His siblings claimed innocence, which seemed both convenient and unlikely. I began to discuss ways to prevent this from continuing to occur (as in, ask for help or fill it directly from the faucet).
He was soon tearful. I knelt down to his level and asked him if he wanted a hug. He said yes.
I considered releasing the hug after 15 seconds or so, but decided to wait him out. During that embrace, I envisioned pouring my love into him. I also envisioned clearing any negativity from the both of us. By the end, it felt as though we were in a cocoon of safety and love. One that we could carry along with us.
After about a minute, he pulled away. I stayed down at his level and asked him what he was feeling. He shook his head and would not meet my eyes. Knowing that he tends to bottle up his emotions, I asked again and then scooped him up and carried him to the couch. I asked once more.
He replied, tearfully, “it’s all my fault.”
“What is? The water?” I asked.
“Do you think spilling water is a big deal?”
He shook his head no.
I said, “You are always allowed to feel sad or mad or whatever, but spilling water is not a huge deal. I’m sorry if I made you feel that way. I was just hoping to help prevent it from continuing to happen.” I looked into his eyes and then tapped his temple as I asked. “Is that voice in your head being mean?”
I said, “Will you repeat after me?”
He nodded again.
I used the Mel Robbins 5-second method. “5-4-3-2-1. I am allowed to make mistakes.”
He repeated, “5-4-3-2-1. I am allowed to make mistakes.”
I said. “I am loved when I make mistakes. I am forgiven when I make mistakes. Nothing is unforgivable.”
He repeated each word as I had, then breathed a bit easier.
I said, “You can do that whenever that voice in your head gets mean. Just count backward and introduce a new thought. Like ‘I am loved’ or ‘I am worthy of forgiveness.’”
I then said, “You know you’re not that voice, right? That voice tries to keep you safe and maybe keep you from taking risks, but that voice can also be pretty mean. You’re not that voice. You’re the one hearing it, observing it. And know that you can let those thoughts go. Right?”
“Yeah. I love you, Mom.” He said he hugged me tightly again.
I certainly am not an expert in parenting. I certainly make mistakes and get intense more often than I’d like. But I think this is an important reminder for both adults and children.
Are we being kind to ourselves? Sometimes being kind is eating an apple instead of Cheetos. Sometimes being kind is drinking water instead of wine. Sometimes being kind is going for a walk instead of playing PS4. Sometimes being kind is journaling about that trigger rather than numbing with social media scrolling. Sometimes being kind is walking away from a relationship that leaves you feeling unworthy or unlovable. Sometimes being kind is eating Oreos with your kids and laughing at chocolate-covered teeth. Sometimes being kind is forgiving yourself for mistakes, whether 7, 37, or any age at all.
I hope this can serve as a reminder that outward kindness will become much easier when we’ve been practicing inward kindness as well. Just as self-criticism can often lead to being hypercritical to those around you, I have an inkling that self-kindness would have a similar effect.
So today choose kindness—not just outward facing kindness, but inward facing kindness as well.
This piece was written and contributed by:
Brandi Johnson was born and raised in a small, Midwest, rural, conservative town. Her parents were free thinkers, which she embodied as well. Growing up, Brandi learned to use caution regarding her truth, as different thinking was not typically welcome. Eventually, she followed the path laid out before her and became a licensed pharmacist. Motherhood was something she always longed for and she is blessed with 3 children and a wonderful husband. Despite these blessings, Brandi struggled with postpartum anxiety and depression after her 3rd child. While battling this, she found her love of writing.
Writing has become Brandi's way to relax and recenter among the stress of life and motherhood. It is a time of reflection and release that brings both joy and peace, which has increased her capacity to love and enjoy life. Through writing, therapy, and meditation, she has found her truth and her voice again.
Brandi attended Mount Marty College for her Undergraduate Degree and South Dakota State University for her Doctorate in Pharmacy degree. She also became a Certified Meditation and Mindfulness Teacher in March 2020 and a Usui Holy Fire® Reiki Practitioner in November 2021.