Parent-Child Communication, The Happy Student Podcast

#83 Family Mottos Part 2: What if Your Kid Isn’t Kind?

Family mottos can be a great way to help kids develop a sense of self and promote good decision making. It’s nice to have a family motto like, “We are kind,” and then just have your kids act kind. But what if your kid isn’t acting kind? Maybe actually your kid is turning into the class bully or the mean girl. In this episode, we talk about how you can still use a family motto to help your kid establish a new, kind identity.

Family Mottos Part 2: What if Your Kid Isn’t Kind

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT…

  • Family mottos can be a great way to help kids develop a sense of self and promote good decision making. It’s nice to have a family motto like, “We are kind,” and then just have your kids act kind. But what if your kid isn’t acting kind?
  • Kids are learning how to behave and how to be friends with other kids. They test out saying a lot of different things and often those things can be hurtful. Children don’t necessarily know that saying, “That shirt is ugly” is going to hurt someone’s feelings, so what happens after they say “That shirt is ugly” is important.
    • If other kids and adults react by saying something to the effect of “That was a mean thing to say. You are mean.” Kids are going to start to think that they are, in fact, mean. Then, they’ll continue to say mean things because that is who they think they are.
      • They aren’t mean. What they said was mean. There’s a big difference there. Their action was wrong, but not their identity. And it’s much easier to change your actions than your identity.
    • Instead, if the people around them react by saying, “That was a mean thing to say. Look at how that hurt your friend’s feelings. I know that you didn’t mean to hurt your friend because you are a kind friend. What do you think you could do to make your friend feel better?” Then the lesson is that they made a mistake and acted out of character and they have an opportunity now to go back to being that kind person.

How can family mottos help?

  • Talk with your child about the importance of being kind. Start the conversation with a story of your own.
  • Finish your story with an emphasis on how important it is to be kind to others and how you value kindness.
    • If they can’t think of anything, say, “Well, it’s super important to be kind. So it’s okay that you can’t think of anything right now. How do you think you could show that you are kind tomorrow?”
  • Then, each day after school ask, “So what did you do today that was kind?”
    • Don’t let them off the hook! They will come up with something to get you off their case. And if they still can’t think of anything, give them a few ideas of things they may have done throughout the day.
  • While you are working on those steps, be on the lookout for ways that your child is being kind and praise them for it.

By following these steps, your child will realize that they are in fact kind sometimes. And that will start to shift their identity.

  • Then, when they aren’t kind, instead of scolding them for being mean, have a discussion with them about what happened.
  • Even if your child did mean to hurt their friend’s feelings, they probably aren’t going to admit it. They want to think the best of themselves and they want you to think the best of them too. And you clearly think that being kind is important, so they aren’t going to correct you. So, they will figure out what to do to make their friend feel better. They will start to act in ways that are kind – in ways that confirm your perception of them.
    • If your child does say, “Yeah, I did want to hurt their feelings.” Then you have a deeper discussion. There are so many reasons your child might say that, so you need to get at the motivations. Maybe that person had hurt their feelings – so that might lead to a conversation about what happened and how to resolve it effectively. But that’s really an aside.

Your family motto is what is important to you. You’ve been showing the importance of being kind. Now is the time to have an explicit conversation about your family values and come up with that “We are kind” motto (or something similar to it, like we are inclusive, generous, giving… You don’t want to force the motto to be one thing, just guide the conversation towards kind and see what mottos your kids come up with.). Once you have that motto, you can then really reinforce that identity explicitly during conversations when you say, “We are kind! What did you do today that was kind?” as well as during the conversations when your kid has trouble remembering to be kind.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Do you have a family motto?

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