Teaching Our Kids to be Kind

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We tend to work through various themes in our family.   They seem to change about as often as the seasons and so as we pack away our flip flops and add potted Mums and pumpkins to our front steps, we also reevaluate what’s going on in our hearts and lives.

Through the summer our theme was patience and love.  We all needed it and were short on it and so we talked about it often.

This season it’s all about kindness.

I’m not a fan of simple behaviour modification in my boys.  I mean, it can seem great in the moment.  It’s nice to see your child say sorry to someone that they’ve just hurt and my mama heart can swell with pride when I see a boy give up something they want for the sake of another, but all too often it isn’t from the right heart.

Sure, on the outside they might look like little saints but the truth is that our kids can tend to be situation manipulators and they know that certain actions will get them certain things.  Or that being selfless in a particular moment can really just make their brother look really bad.  Or being generous can simply serve to boost their prideful hearts and bring the praise from man that they so desire.

They’re rotten little schemers, aren’t they?!  (as we all are!)

I want to teach my boys that behaviour modification is never the sole answer.  Sure, it may be required in a situation.  Sometimes it is right to give up something for someone else even if our heart isn’t in it.  But I’d so much rather they learn to have a heart that IS in it!

And that’s the hard part.  That’s where the endless work comes in.  The constant conversations.  The teaching every hour of every day because very rarely are children just kind and patient and generous all on their own.  Think I’m wrong?  Picture the last 3 or 13 year old you spent time with and tell me how patient and selfless they were.

When it comes to matters of the heart we focus on what scripture calls the fruit of the spirit.  The evidences of knowing that we are governed by someone greater than ourselves.  The tangible outworking of having a heart that loves Jesus and so desires to live in a way that is representative of the things he is. (Galatians 5:22-23)

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I want my kids to show love.  But if they show love out of a heart that desires to love others because they recognize the love that Christ has shown to them?  Game.  Changer.

I looked kindness up in the dictionary the other day to show the kids in greater detail what kindness actually was but I wasn’t pleased with the definition.  So, I did what I should have done to begin with.  I did  a little word study on what the root of the word actually meant in scriptures original language.  Turns out, this is the definition that made way more sense, naturally.

Turns out that kindness is actually the word χρηστότης.  Yeah, I don’t know what that says either but what I do know is that it means goodness and integrity and the root of the word means fit for use, virtuous and good.  It means manageable and pleasant as opposed to harsh and bitter.

Now, these are things I can explain to my boys.  Instead of just rattling off, “You guys, be kind!”  and them simply muscling their way through a smile and not yelling at their brother, we could begin to pray for kindness in our lives.

We could pray that we would be fit for use.  Don’t you love that?  Fit for use in this world by God.  Isn’t that our very purpose here on earth?  That we would be manageable, not holding fast to our own ways or opinions, but allowing the Lord to manage our ways.  We could pray that our hearts would be pleasant towards people, that we wouldn’t use words that were harsh or angry.  That we wouldn’t hold onto wrong doings and lash back.

This led us to Proverbs 12:18 where it says, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

How much does that change the meaning of the word kind for us?

When we treat people unkindly or talk to them in an unkind way it is like thrusting a sword into them.  It leaves them wounded, hurt, sad, and with scars.  Are those the kind of people we want to be?  Do we like that feeling when others do that to us?

On the flip side, words and actions that are kind bring healing.  They take the wounds that others have left and help to heal them.  They see the hurts and the pain and the sadness from sword thrusts and they apply medicine and bandage them up and stroke their head and tell them it’s going to be okay.

That’s what kindness is.  It isn’t simply telling our kids they should, “be kind,” but that they need to be willing to be used by God to be healers to peoples wounds through their words and their actions.

Gives a bit of a fuller picture of kindness, doesn’t it?

So, we’re working on that around here.  We’re using the picture of sword thrusts into someone when we’re being unkind and we’re praying and working towards lives that are the opposite of that.

We’re talking about how the seemingly cool kids can sit around and make fun of people and huddle in their little cliques and how that isn’t cool at all.

Kindness is cool.  Being healers instead of wounders is cool.  Being ready for God to use is cool.  Being manageable is cool.  Smiling at someone you don’t know is kind and cool.  Chatting to that person who has no friends is healing to their wounds.  Not joining in on harsh and judgemental talk is applying the salve to a soul and that is beyond cool.

I pray that God would continually change their hearts (and mine!) to desire kindness.

Because it really is that cool.

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