Recently, I was asked “What is one thing you want to make sure to teach your children, and how are you doing it?”
There are a few character traits that we’ve been focused on over the past few years. It’s been cool to see how they just become a part of my family’s identity and the way we describe each other.
It all began when my husband and I first started dating.
Very early on, we set values for our relationship. The two main ones being respect and kindness.
We will respect each other in private and in public. We will not speak bad about each other, we will respect each other’s feelings, time, and space. We love each other, so we will respect each other.
We will be understanding of one another and show kindness to each other. Not only will we do kind things for one another, but we will respond to each other with kind words.
Now, what does this have to do with raising children?
Well, as soon as our children were born, we put these same values in place for our relationships with them. We discuss openly that our baby is a human and deserves respect. With every interaction, we made sure that it was respectful.
As they have grown, we have attached these two words to our family in a deep way.
Assign character traits to our whole family
“Our family is kind and respectful.” That is our mantra, it is how we describe our family and everyone in it.
We have decided that these two words are the foundation of our family. As our children grow, we will probably add more, like responsible. Actually, I’m finding myself using that word a lot with my oldest already.
By assigning these traits to our entire family, we build a sense of family unity and it gives us a firm foundation of what’s expected of us.
Filter Everything Through These Traits
Every interaction we have with each other is run through the filter of “is this kind and respectful?” It runs so deep that it’s almost automatic.
I am constantly saying things like “that didn’t sound like kind words, please try again”, “please be respectful of your brother’s wants”, or “wow, that was a very kind thing for you to do.”
I use the words every day, in multiple situations. I even use them as a basis for discipline.
When one of my children does something that isn’t kind, I’ll remind him that our family is kind and that what he did was not. Then we problem solve and figure out what he can do next time, or what he should do now to repair the situation.
I try to always be aware of how I approach my children when they get into trouble.
I think that mistakes just happen sometimes and it’s okay to laugh them off. I also approach negative behaviors by teaching instead of punishing.
Now, at 4, my son is aware of what it means to be kind and respectful. He uses the terms on a regular basis and even describes himself as a “kind person”.
Not just for the kids
The really important part of this is that we are all held to the same standards. In other words, Mom and Dad must also focus on staying kind and respectful.
But this isn’t always easy and there will be times when we all make mistakes. So when I am not kind or I do something that isn’t respectful, I always apologize for that. “I’m sorry I yelled, it was not a kind and respectful thing to do”.
By apologizing, we show our children that these rules are not just for them, but for us as well. It also teaches them how to apologize and repair after a mistake or moment of disconnect.
It’s about living up to the same standards we have set for them.
It sticks with them
I do believe that as my boys grow that the foundation we have set for them has the potential to help them make good decisions.
Whenever they are faced with tough decisions I hope that they will filter their decisions based on how kind and respectful that act is.
I think that this is possible because it has been so ingrained into them that it becomes a part of their character.
What character values do you instill into your family? How do you do it?
Click the button below for my 30 Ways to Teach Kids Kindness handout
Thank you for sharing this post. I’ve always hoped that I was teaching my children those values, kindness and respect, but I don’t think I voice it enough. It does come up frequently but I love the idea of having a family mantra. It makes it much more concrete.
I suspect as well that in the same way as we ‘name’ our children, (so calling them either negative things or positive things) reinforces that idea (so calling them fussy reinforces that they’re fussy). I suspect that having a positive family mantra reinforces that idea on a daily basis.
Thank you for your fantastic reminder to be kind and respectful to everyone, especially those we are closest too, who we often take for granted.
Teresa Doss Stewart
This is GREAT!!! I serve as a behavioral health case manager and individual rehabilitation specialist and work with many impoverished families in our community and the surrounding communities. What we are noticing is that the children appear to be disrespectful and have no empathy for others. Do you have any free resources I could utilize to learn some new activities to engage these children and their family members so that they learn and retain the information in order to make changes to their lives and hopefully lift themselves out of the lifestyles their family’s have chosen? Thank you!!!