I’ve been thinking about kindness this week for several reasons. I think it’s one of those qualities that we notice when we see it in extremes in so much as we notice extreme kindness – someone going out of their way to think of you perhaps and we notice extreme unkindness when someone seems to deliberately either undermine you or is rude. We each have our own definition of what we feel is really kind or unkind and I’ve been surprised sometimes when someone has noticed something I did automatically, as being very kind and then on another occasion when I really did make an effort it wasn’t remarked on at all. This tends to suggest that kindness is in the ‘eye of the beholder’ and is judged by how it is perceived by the other person and how much the action or word meant to them personally.
So let me tell you why it’s relevant this week.
I had a client yesterday who after much preamble told me that her 9 year old son wouldn’t kiss or hug her. She felt that this was rather a young age to be funny about showing affection and as her younger son was very huggy, she was concerned that her older son may have a problem with his emotions. We talked about their family and her values and she frequently gave me examples of what I would describe as ‘kindness’ but she tended to use the word ‘helpful’. When we drilled down to what the examples meant to her she said that it was in fact all about being kind. Her older son was very kind in many ways but in not responding to his mum’s affection he was being unkind. Mum blamed herself and wondered if she was being too pushy, controlling and demanding. We established that she did all the household chores and did all she did because it was expected of her, not because she was a kind mum and she didn’t expect any thanks for it or positive feedback. I pointed out that in many ways she was modelling a way of being to her son, of being kind but not expecting reward for it which goes to the heart of kindness, doing it for it’s own worth not for the appreciation. She is going to go home and emphasise kindness so her son knows that this is who he is e.g. ‘that was so kind Tom’ and ‘would you be really kind and …..’ and then ask him to be kind and give her a goodnight kiss. Let’s hope it works!
The other thing that is happening in my life is that I’m part of a writing team writing children’s books for the JaneNotPlain Esteem movement . The book we’re writing at the moment is about kindness and it made me think how important this is in our world of focussing on academic achievement, sports prowess and external appearance. How important is kindness in your family? Do you mark it out, comment on it? Do you know, the more you look for it, the more you’ll find. When you do, say something about it to show you have noticed it and value it as a quality in your child. Think too about how you show kindness because you are their model. What goes around comes around as they say.