By Sami Cone
We want more.
We want more stuff. We want more “likes” on Facebook. We want more money. We want more vacation time. And yes, we want more for our kids.
But how can we realistically raise compassionate kids content with less when they’re constantly being told more is better?
It starts with us: Before we can raise uncommon kids, we have to be uncommon ourselves.
It’s not wrong to want more for your kids, depending on what you want more of.
Every day, I pray for more wisdom, more kindness, more generosity, more joy, more contentment, and yes, more compassion within my children.
Does this mean we ought to strip ourselves and our kids of every creature comfort? Of course not. But it does mean we need to take a harder, more evaluative look at who we are, what we do, what we have, and why we have it.
While a child’s behavior is not always a direct representation of their parent’s influence, a parent’s influence should have a direct impact on the behavior of their child.
Don’t lose heart! Though this may seem daunting initially, you should instead see it as an immediate and effective way to start influencing the legacy you will leave with your children.
You may be looking for a quick fix for your kids; I’m here to coach you in paying a little less attention to their behavior and spending a little more time evaluating your own.
It’s been said that we rarely see an accurate picture of what the mirror reflects back to us, and I think that statement is even more accurate with how we see our kids. The problem comes when we expect change in our children without first turning the mirror of change on ourselves as parents.
If we want our kids to change, the change has to start with us. We don’t need a parenting manual as much as we need to be aware that our kids are going to watch, study and emulate much of what we do and say…so what is it that you want to reflect to them?
Just as you don’t want to hide chips and cookies in your pantry and tell your kids they are “only for Mommy” after deciding to put everyone on a diet, you don’t want to confuse your kids by encouraging them in their own disciplines if you never engage in those disciplines yourself.
Everyone knows raising kids isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. But that doesn’t change the fact that we still hope to see change, improvement and potential in our parenting…and hope to see it quickly!
The biggest issue I come across in parenting is that we somehow expect our kids to care about people and issues they know nothing about on the other side of the world, while not showing them how to love and care about the people right under their roof.
In my book, Raising Uncommon Kids, I share twelve characteristics that we need to embody as families before we can expect our kids to truly become compassionate. But how can we put these principles into practice? After all, speaking in theoretical terms only gets so far with our kids.
For our kids to care about others:
- They need to know there are others to care about.
- They need to understand the world doesn’t revolve around them.
- They need to believe they can make a difference not just in the world, but in their neighborhood and most importantly inside their own homes.
Your kids may say they feel loved and I’d bet they’d even admit they love you and their siblings, but do they show it? Before we can be compassionate towards others, we need to practice within the fours walls of our home.
Actions speak louder than words, so let’s start today by learning seven practical steps anyone can take to raise uncommon kids.
7 things you can do TODAY to start raising uncommon kids:
- Create a family mission statement. Once you do, display it prominently in your home where every member of your family can not only see it, but refer back to it often.
- Re-design your home. Go through each room of your house and have each family member call out the thing they like most about that space, whether tangible or intangible. Strive to make everyone’s voice heard and represented in some way.
- Parents switch roles with kids for a day. Want to help your kids experience what it’s really like to be you? Switch roles with them for a day. While children are typically thrilled at the prospect of ordering around their parents, the tides typically turn once they discover the new balance of work and play. Even if you don’t do this for an entire day, make sure to save time to celebrate the switching back of roles and debrief what everyone experienced.
- Let your children deal with their mistakes. Don’t be so quick to clean up all your children’s messes for them. Think about it. It’s better to help your kids process their flubs while they’re living with you in their school years than to raise them in a bubble and then send them off to college without a hint of what the world will throw at them.
- Encourage your kids to do one of their sibling’s chores one day. Explain how a simple act of kindness can break the battle cycle siblings often find themselves in.
- Find at least one good thing in every situation. Whether you find your family stuck in unthinkable traffic or in the midst of a sickness that’s swept over the entire household, start a practice of finding something positive in every circumstance and asking your kids to verbalize the same.
- Focus on love, not justice. Life isn’t always fair and the sooner our kids grasp that concept, the better. If you have more than one child, try a simple exercise like this: present them with one cookie or sandwich. Allow one child to split the item, but then allow another child to choose which half they want to keep. Using an example like this can help reinforce the idea of putting others before yourself.
Being uncommon isn’t quick or easy, but it is worthwhile. Knowing that you are living life on your own terms not only allows your family’s heart to be full, but more importantly, fills you with the freedom for that love to overflow to others in need. When you model compassion in your own home, your kids will begin to understand what that could look like outside the walls of your home.
So don’t just strive to have kids ‘like everyone else’. In fact, your goal should be to have kids unlike others. Go ahead and start: Raise uncommon kids.