I’ve had emails from parents about my last two posts (read here and here), concerned that if they encourage their kids to be kind, it is, in effect, encouraging them to be weak.

This is ABSOLUTELY NOT the case.

Of course, it is natural for parents to worry their child’s kindness will be exploited by others. And yes, it is true, if a child is kind at all costs they are likely to be taken advantage of. As much as we are a civilized society, the law of the jungle still applies.

So let me be crystal clear.  An empowered person, whether it be a child or adult, must be kind and compassionate on one side BUT, in equal measure on the other side, must have unshakable self-respect.

What does this mean?

This means ensuring your child knows how to say no to verbal (or physical) abuse of any kind.  No name-calling, no teasing, no shouting, no silent treatment, no dismissing…no anything that allows another person to take their power away from him or her.

Empowering your child to have unshakable self-respect occurs in three ways:

  1. Be treating your child with the respect they deserve and demanding the respect you deserve,
  2. By applying the same set of rules for everybody you interact with, and
  3. By engaging in role play.

If we berate, ignore or belittle our kids inside our home, or display this behaviour with others we come into contact with, we are teaching them this interaction is normal.  So it isn’t surprising if they copy this behaviour in the playground. It’s common sense, but I’ll admit, staying calm and respectfully asking your child to pick their clothes up off the floor is difficult when you’ve uttered the same sentence ten times before (serenity now!).  The important thing is to be mindful of how our own actions rub off on our kids, and attempt to reinforce respectful communication as much as we can.

Role play is also very helpful to kids and is an empowerment technique I use at home.  I show them ways to respectfully communicate their expectations with others, especially in tricky scenarios where my child may have done the wrong thing and needs to apologise, but then has to contend with the other child’s aggressiveness or anger.

I’ll address exactly how to respectfully enforce respect in my next blog. Stay tuned.

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