I firmly believe that the most important thing we can teach our children to be in this world is kind. Everything else will fall into place. But what does that mean?
Kind does not mean being a pushover. Kind means knowing what is inherently right and wrong and honoring that in our words and actions. It does not mean being nice. Nice is concerned with politeness; kind goes deeper into our hearts and spirits.
It means defending the weak, even against those with more power than us.
It means believing in both equality and equity.
It means being generous.
It means respecting others’ personal space and body autonomy.
It means knowing the weight of our words before we speak.
So how do we teach our children this?
First of all, we must model that behavior.
In today’s society, more than ever, we are facing challenges that test our compassion. In our family, what matters to us is not where someone comes from or what religion they practice, what matters is what is in their heart. So our children will not hear us using hurtful language to describe others who may seem different from us. We welcome differences in the hopes of learning more about someone.
Second, we gently point out when they or others are speaking in broad generalizations.
We have to question the validity of “all or none” statements.
Third, we educate them, age appropriately, about current events.
We don’t believe that they are “too young” to discuss political or social concerns because, after all, the world that we are creating now is what we will leave to them. They deserve to understand it. We use these events and situations as examples to explain what we mean by kindness.
Fourth, we teach them that at the end of the day, love is the most important thing they can give to the world.
So this kindness means our children need to be brave. They have to be brave to stand up for the kid on the playground who is being bullied. They need to be brave to declare that they don’t agree with an unfair policy from an authority figure. They need to be brave to admit when they are wrong and apologize when they make a mistake. They need to be brave to stand by their convictions. They need to be brave to acknowledge their privilege. And all of that braveness stems from being kind people.