Groggy morning routine begins. Diaper changed. Cartoons turned on. Brewing coffee. Toddler signing for milky. Stumbling over toys.
Four year old comes into kitchen and asks, “Mommy why did that bad guy kill people?”
I thought I had turned on some harmless Daniel Tiger, but I had actually switched to the morning news. The heartbreaking morning following the Orlando night club shooting. My 4 year old sat and watched the story while I prepared her oatmeal in the kitchen. This news was shocking even as an adult. It’s almost impossible to process the news these days, my child shouldn’t have to.
The damage was done. I had to take this moment and turn it into something good. Something that would matter. I cannot always shield her from the terrible things that happen. I explained, as best as a mother can, why that bad guy killed those people. It was heart wrenching and impossible.
“Sweetheart, that bad guy didn’t like the way those people lived their lives, and didn’t think they should be able to love who they wanted to love. He was scary and he hurt a lot of people. The nice police and firemen all came to help. People are very sad. It is OK to be sad. This man was not kind.
Mommy, we are kind right?
Yes, all the time. Always be kind.”
Then she made sure I put extra brown sugar on the oats and asked to switch to My Little Pony.
We organized a kindness rally for the next day. Friends and community members joined us in a special night of discussing kindness. We read stories to the children about acceptance and love. We held a candle light ceremony and combined colors to create one unified piece. It was a night of healing and reflection for the adults, and a time to show our children that kindness and acceptance can make a difference.
One simple message was repeated that evening.
Be kind. Be the change.
That is what I want most of all for my kids. I don’t care what path they choose in life as long as they get there by being kind. Instead of taking these scary moments and ignoring them, we try to overpower them with kindness. With doing. With helping. With giving. With serving. With teaching. If we want these scary things to stop, if we don’t want to worry if our children to accidentally see the news, if we want them to be the change then we must model and teach kindness.
Here are five simple ways that you can lead your children to BE THE CHANGE.
Use the Word “Kind”
Teach your children what it means to be kind. When your child does something that is kind, praise them; say that was a very kind thing you just did, instead of good job. Instead of saying “no” for unwanted behaviors change the dialogue to “was that kind?” or “the more kind choice could have been.” Point out kind acts that you witness throughout your the day. If someone holds the door open say “thank you, that was kind.” When children hear the words be kind over and over they will pick it up. They will practice kindness.
It is so important as a mom to apologize. We all have our moments. We slip up, we yell, we lose it. It happens. Sometimes it’s in the car at another driver, sometimes it’s on the phone, and sometimes its directly to your kids. We are all human, it is part of life. But use this as an opportunity to show kids that you recognize what happened and it wasn’t kind. Explain that your reaction could have been different. Apologizing shows the child that they are respected. Teach your child to apologize and recognize their own unkind behavior as well. My daughter responds so much more if I tell her you are not being kind right now versus yelling, time outs, or other types of punishments.
Speak the truth
This one is hard, but telling your children the truth (at an age-appropriate level) teaches them so much more than hiding it. As I explained the tragic Orlando shooting to my daughter, she understood that something very serious happened. If they ask you a question, answer honestly. Not every detail is necessary, but knowing the truth will help them understand that choosing kindness over hate will make a difference.
Random Acts of Kindness
This one is fun! There are so many fun examples on social media or make your own list. Spend a day doing random acts of kindness with your family, from something small like holding the door open to something bigger like mailing care packages to a sick loved one. These acts of kindness will go farther than you think, to the person receiving and within your child. Watch as your child begins to spread kindness though their actions.
Be an example
Exude kindness. Always be mindful of your reactions to situations. Our children are sponges – they soak up everything. This is such a great way to change your mind set when faced with negativity. Life is stressful. Schedules are hard. Bills are overwhelming. But, you can always face each situation with kindness. Your kids will notice.
Always be kind. Choose kindness. Live Kindness. Even in frustrating situations.
If you are kind, your children will notice.
They will be the change.