Memories of my childhood are spotty (at best) but a few, specific unkind words sit securely on the shelves of my mind, wreaking havoc on my confidence, even to this day. This is why I’m so concerned about how my children treat others. My kids may never excel in school or master a sport but they will be kind to everyone, if I can help it. I often see this as my greatest responsibility as a mom.
Yet my great concern and (shortsighted) diligence has failed to bear much fruit. Lately, as my 5 year old shows more signs of boyhood, his once magnetic, cheery personality has mixed with force to create a presence that is welcoming yet aggressive and often ends with sharp words or a punch in the arm. I left the scene of the crime recently with tears in my eyes because I never want my kid to be that kid.
In this house we choose kindness, or do we?
It never shocks me when my children choose selfishness or aggression over being kind and gentle. They are human, after all. But observing this side of their humanity has challenged me to look inside my own heart for areas where my behavior doesn’t match up with my value of kindness. Are they learning from my lack? Have the effects of my short fuse and impatience overshadowed the heart of kindness within my own home?
I’ve been paying more attention to my interactions with my family and what I’ve noticed isn’t pretty. They say the way you speak to your children becomes their inner voice. Realizing my responses may become hurtful memories that remain in their own minds grieves me to change; to choose life-giving words and actions with the ones I love most that will spill over into relationships outside our home. Although each child’s personality is uniquely knit together by their Creator, the behavior and countenance they carry into the world is cultivated at home.
My children will learn how to treat others by how I treat them.
My boy had an epic meltdown in the grocery store check out line the other day. I stood there in silence and gently rubbed his back as he wailed and shoppers stared at us annoyed. My girl (age 8) walked over and hugged me. “Are you OK, Mommy?” she asked, confused and concerned by my calm presence. “I’m fine, sweetie. Mommy is choosing not to react,” I replied, knowing my silence was the kindest response I could offer at the moment. She hugged me tighter and hurried off to grab the grocery bags. When we arrived home, she jumped out to once again help as we unloaded the car.
My son stomped in the house still crying, yet I smiled. My softness had called out the kindness that’s been developing in my daughter’s heart. Foundations laid and secured (despite my imperfections) stood strong that day because of my choice. I trust my son will show his own progress as I lead with words and actions that shape good character.
One day, one choice at a time, I will build this house with kindness. Change comes from the inside out. If we learn to show kindness with the ones we love most, it will flow through our walls and out our doors into the world around us.
Looking for ways (besides modeling) to teach your children kindness and other fruits of the spirit? We love Micah’s Super Vlog on Minno. It’s a super fun, super quick way to prompt convervsations with your kids about the values found in Galatians 5:22-23 and other attributes of a Jesus follower.