Family Values: Lessons on Kindness
Family values represent the "big picture" of what we hold most dear and important in our individual family units. They are the identified and decided-upon characteristics that shape and define our families, and they help us know where to place our focus as we raise our kids and establish our family culture.
My last article talked about the importance my family places on integrity. I shared ideas about when and how my husband and I communicate its importance to our kids.
Today I share another Laffoon family value: kindness.
At first glance, it seems easy enough to communicate. However, kindness takes on different meanings in different situations to different people. And the appropriateness of what you communicate about kindness depends on your child's age. My kids are all still young, so we talk about what kindness is and what it isn’t.
For example, we say that kindness isn't simply being "nice"—shining a big smile and saying what other people want to hear. Kindness isn't just helping anyone and everyone who could use a hand. Kindness isn't allowing ourselves to be manipulated or used by others.
Kindness is honoring other people while also honoring ourselves.
Kindness is compassionate, empathetic, and loving.
Kindness is gentle and does require self-control.
Sometimes kindness looks like patience. Sometimes kindness looks like sharing. Sometimes kindness requires bravery.
Kindness shows respect to others by thinking about how they might be feeling or trying to understand their point of view.
Kindness seeks to maintain a healthy and safe atmosphere for everyone involved, even when talking about tough topics or delivering bad news.
Kindness isn’t as simple as "being nice," is it? And it often gets overlooked amidst other big values like integrity, perseverance, and responsibility.
But kindness extends the reach of these other, more obvious values. Kindness offers layers of meaning and authenticity to them. It makes them "matter" more. A hard truth spoken without kindness hits differently than a hard truth spoken in kindness. Being a person of integrity—or perseverance or responsibility—looks and feels different when tethered to kindness.
Kindness helps built trust and respect, two key elements in cultivating healthy relationships, resolving conflict, and moving through challenging situations. And it's just really pleasant to be around someone who is kind!
As mentioned in the last article, it is tempting to hound our children with our family values in moments when they are not displaying positive or wanted behavior. But if we do this too often, it will leave a bitter taste to the very things we hold most dear. Instead, try to praise the moments and choices that display your family values.
“Buddy, I overheard you telling your sister how her words hurt your feelings. I noticed you used such a kind tone of voice and kind words to do it. That showed a lot of kindness and self-control.”
"I notice that you helped your brother open his snack before opening your own. You were thinking about his needs and feelings, and that was really kind. Isn’t kindness so important?”
Be aware of your kids’ choices that indicate they are internalizing your family values, and give those moments—small or big—verbal affirmation. Focus your energy on what’s going right over what’s left to work on.
And when a situation requires you to call attention to a lack of kindness, double-check that you’re modeling the behavior you want to see from your child: stay calm, build connection through soft touch and gentle words, and model kindness in real time. Listen to their understanding of the event, share your heart, and make a plan for going forward in kindness.
Observing the way you incorporate your family values into your life and parenting is the main way your children will learn how to incorporate these values into their own lives.