I’m thinking about rebranding my entire website and business to be entitled Kind AF.
This makes sense as you may have seen we’ve quite embraced swearing at our house. I’m also itching for a vanity plate (ORDERED!) and a wrist tattoo (that will need to wait).
And why focus here?
Because we all could be kinder. And I want to practice radical kindness. Blow-you-away kindness. Knock-your-socks-off kindness. Killer kindness and kill-them-with-kindness kindness. Because if I can rise to that, it means several things:
- I have been taking really excellent care of myself. I’ve been treating myself like a friend. I’ve been attending to my needs in the physical, mental, emotional AND social realms. I have refrained from beating myself up—with thoughts, words, or just lack-of-attention.
2. I know how to self-regulate. Because of #1, I can better manage my own energy and reactions. I am least able to do this when I stop factoring myself into the equation. This isn’t about selfishness or codependence, it’s about trying to make sure everyone in the family gets most of their needs met most of the time. It’s never going to be perfect. But everyone should be on the roster. Don’t leave yourself off! It renders you good for no one. Paying some attention to everyone’s needs keeps you from vacillating between martyred sacrifice and “I can’t even!”
3. I know myself better today than I did yesterday. I’m paying attention to my emotional reactions and how I feel in my body. I know how to do a gut-check. Because being kind isn’t being “Pollyanna,” or being in denial and saying you “see the good.” (I should know, I used to excel at it.) What I’m saying has more to do with being present. It’s about paying attention, being real, and staying connected.
And you can probably guess the positive impact this kindness (and awareness, self-regulation, and self-care) has on the people you love. Your children, partner, and family. How it helps you set better boundaries—SO IMPORTANT!
I always pair kindness with boundaries when I teach parenting classes. They go together like peanut butter and jelly; yin and yang. Many of us simply do not have a good working model of authority that isn’t elevated, agitated, or just plain angry.
I know my parents were often apoplectic by the time we pushed them to a boundary (bless their hearts). It is so much more effective to know where your boundary is, state it, and hold it before you lose your cool. Then you can be a more effective listener and coach when the inevitable upset of confronting a limit ensues. You can’t blame kids for being upset about not getting what they want—that’s just human nature. And they will learn to accept a “no” gracefully as they mature; it just takes practice!
Tonight, I was tired.
We drove to New York for my grandmother’s Celebration of Life yesterday. And then we drove home today. Everyone was kinda crispy. My grandma had died. When old people die it’s definitely not tragic. But it is disconcerting and weird because WE HAVE GOTTEN SO USED TO THAT PERSON BEING HERE. Then they are gone.
My husband took one for the team and volunteered to tuck my son in and listen to whatever moaning he needed to do before falling asleep because I was done. D-O-N-E. I gave the boy a big hug and said goodnight and closed my door. I needed some space. Not 5 minutes later, he came in whining and asked for another hug. I gave it and said goodnight again.
Another 5 minutes and he’s back because his Band-Aid is falling off the tiny cut he’d gotten earlier (on a seltzer can of all things). I kindly (kindly!) helped him get a fresh one. Then I put my arms around him for one last hug.
“Bubs,” I said, “That is the last thing I can offer you tonight. This is the last hug. I am too tired for anymore requests. Dad is available and capable, and he can take care of whatever you might need from now on. I will see you in the morning.”
That boundary, stated clearly and kindly, ensured that I wouldn’t LOSE MY MIND when he came in for a third time. Because even Mamas who are kind AF reach their limits.
Sarah MacLaughlin is author of the award-winning book, What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children and has been featured in The Huffington Post. She brings over 25 years of experience working with children and families to her coaching practice. Sarah is also mom to an ten-year-old who gives her plenty of opportunities to take her own advice. She works with families one on one, in groups, and online.