This post is continued thought from yesterday’s post, Parenting with the end in mind (Part 1). I was beginning to think about the practical pieces of parenting that have been intentionally built into the lives of my kids. The first two were confidence and character and I want to share two more today.
- Build compassion – It takes intentionality to build compassion into the lives of kids. Foundational knowledge of child development, professional or otherwise, will tell you that children are naturally self-centered. They can’t help but to think only of themselves. Teaching kids the ability to be moved by the needs around them is not a simple task. I started with what I had right in front of me every day – their sibling! My greatest accidental lesson in building compassion was an exercise we called “Knee to Knee.” I am passionate about my kids loving each other and have actually required it as an essential element to life. When they were little and would become self-centered and fight, squabble, and argue, I would call them to have a “Knee to Knee.” They would sit cross-legged, face to face, holding hands, with knees touching. They were very young when I began this so I would “give them their lines” in order to teach them. I would usually embellish and dramatize their speech and have them repeat after me. It would sound something like this:
Daughter : Dearest brother of mine, I adore you and think you are the best brother in the world. Forgive me for being selfish and not sharing my toys with you. I want nothing more than to spend time enjoying your presence.
Son : Dearest sister of mine, you are beautiful and precious and I’m so grateful you are my sister. Forgive me for grabbing your toy and showing you such disrespect. I want nothing more than to spend time enjoying your presence.
Once the giggling subsided and they were both able to say their lines, peace resumed in the play room and we moved forward with our day. As fun and funny as that exercise was, it taught my kids to think about someone other than themselves. They eventually created their own conversations with each other as they became compassionate towards each other. The excercise has matured into two teenagers who can own their behavior, apologize to others, and who have developed a keen ability to be moved by the needs around them.
- Build competence – I believe really strongly that kids need to learn, become aware of, and embrace their unique gifts and skills. This can sometimes be a process of elimination and usually requires trying a lot of things. As my kids would try things they were interested in, they began to fine tune the things they really loved and the areas they were skilled and gifted. Helping my kids find those life-giving things they are naturally skilled nad gifted at enabled them to build competence in those areas. They started to pour discipline, focus, and hard work into their natural abilities to build competence.
I have noticed, with time, that as my kids can step into areas with confidence, character, compassion, and competence, they are truly beginning to shine in their uniqueness. I am also noticing that with these filters of practical foundations, they are beginning to see themselves as a difference maker, an influencer, and an agent of change in their worlds. They are starting to find the unique ways they will leave the world better!