A friend once asked me if I thought I was a kind parent. At first, I wasn't clear on what he meant. Loving? I show my kids love every day. Altruistic? As a dad, I frequently put my kids' needs before my own desires. I'm there to help them when they're sick, hurt or struggling with long division. Just recently, I let my son have the last scoop of ice cream. And I love ice cream.
Kindness and parenting
As parents, we don't often consider the concept of kindness within the context of parenting. We treat co-workers and store clerks and strangers on the street with kindness. Does this relationship dynamic really apply to all the big work that goes into parenting?
It does, and I think it's often easy to overlook its importance. Kindness in parenting means cultivating an atmosphere of respect within our homes — especially when life throws frustrations and challenges our way. It means paying attention to our kids' words and viewpoints so that we can face life's hurdles as a unified team. It means showing gratitude for each other, acknowledging positive decisions and attitudes instead of only focusing on correcting the negative.
What's your approach?
This level of respect doesn't take anything away from the larger goals of our parenting. Letting children do whatever they want to do isn't kind or respectful. That's permissiveness. Shielding them from challenges and rescuing them from consequences isn't respectful, either. Losing our tempers in the face of misbehavior also isn't respectful. Kindness means approaching the often-difficult realities of family life with a sensible, gentle tone, with the recognition that certain things just have to be dealt with, but no one has to be rude.
I sometimes ask myself, What would it be like to have me as a dad? Usually, I think I'm doing a decent job. But when the road is rockier than I'd like, this question helps me focus on being respectful and kind. It doesn't mean I'm not frustrated, even a little angry. But kindness should always outrank whatever self-righteous attitude I'm experiencing in the moment.
Daniel Huerta is the vice president of parenting and youth at Focus on the Family.