Leading up to Pink Shirt Day, an anti-bullying day in Canada, last month, I realized something: I’ve kind of screwed up a little when I’ve taught my kids about kindness. I’ve pretty much drilled it in their heads to be kind to others. Don’t hurt people’s feelings. Don’t be mean. Don’t use your hands, use your words. And if I may say so myself, I’ve got some pretty empathetic kids to start with, so really my job’s been easy.
Except I’ve realized there is a huge void in my teachings on kindness. A huge concept that is not so easy for many of us to figure out, even as adults.
I’ve heard it too many times now from my own kids and from their peers – they haven’t defended themselves in situations when they should have because they didn’t want to be mean. I’ve realized that I have accidentally omitted teaching my kids that being kind means being kind to themselves as well. And that defending themselves is a big part of that.
It sounds simple; it should go without saying that we should stick up for ourselves when someone is hurting us, physically or emotionally. But even adults have a hard time with this. That’s why there are all these self-love retreats and books and summits. How do we expect elementary school-aged children to make that connection?
I’m glad we have a day set aside in February to create awareness for a very real, a very dangerous epidemic in our society. I’d love it more if we could shift some greater focus onto treating ourselves kindly and that sometimes that means pushing someone off you who’s trying to hurt you, or screaming loudly in someone’s face even if that’s being ‘scary’ or ‘mean’.
As a parent, it’s painful to see your kid in tears because someone punched them at school. But it’s even more devastating to hear that your child just stood there and took it because they don’t want to do something ‘bad’. It’s difficult to teach that blurred line, when using behaviour you’d otherwise condemn is actually necessary.
To be clear, I still believe it’s best to use your words and walk away. And if the bullying persists, an adult must be notified. But when a child is being pinned to the ground or physically beaten, then I think it’s appropriate for them to do what they need to do to get out of that situation, like screaming stop, shouting for help and pushing the other person off them.
We all want our kids to be kind to others, but teaching them to be kind to themselves gives them a valuable tool for creating a happy, healthier and fulfilling life.
Photo Copyright: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo
Jane Allen says
Thanks so much for sharing this. I can so totally relate. Even as adults, we find it difficult to defend ourselves when people try to hurt us. I believe it’s important to make this clear to our kids.