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4 Ideas for Teaching Kids How to Value Others Through Their Words and Actions

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It's your job to teach your kids how to value each other through their words and actions (even when they think that slugging it out is easier).

This year my wife and I gave our 5-year-old daughter permission to fight back against any boy trying to overpower her.

Her response?

“YES!”

Unfortunately, the first recipient of her ninja skills was her 11-year-old brother.

It sounded something like this:

[Pop!]

“OWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!” 

[A combination of crying, wailing, and stomping.]

It first appeared that our daughter randomly walked by her brother and slugged him in the stomach.

Or…at least that was what he wanted us to believe.

But because he tends to be a bit reactive when things (aka his annoying little sister) happen to him, my wife felt it necessary to conduct some deeper detective work.

The real story: he had been wrestling with her and holding her down. She felt her only option was to slug him, so she did.

On the one hand, I have no problem with her response.

On the other hand, clearly I still have some parenting work to do.

I can try everything I know to prevent moments like this from happening. Still, an 11 year old is innocently going to play with his sister (which is what my son was doing) and not realize his strength. In turn, a 5 year old is going to respond back with a concrete defense when she feels she has no other option. As their dad, it’s my job to try to teach them how to value each other through their words and actions (even when slugging and reacting is easier).

  1. Create “environments of grace”: Kids struggle to understand the difference between a motive to harm and unintentional wrong-doing. Point out the difference when you spot it, like when your kids do something that bothers you but wasn’t done to hurt you (like unconsciously kicking your seat as you drive or being honest about what they think of the greenish-looking dinner you made them). Respond back in the moment with, “What you just did bothers me, but I’m going to choose to not let it keep bothering me it because I don’t think you meant to be mean. Can you learn from this, though?”
  1. Emphasize valuing others with body language: We all have a natural tendency to shrink back physically when we feel we’ve done something wrong or are in trouble. Kids especially might put their heads down, look away, or slump in their chairs.  Show them how part of building a good relationship with someone is giving them our attention and eye contact as we listen and talk.
  1. Model and require specific apologies: The words we choose help others to know that we understand what they’re upset about. Saying “I’m sorry you got upset” isn’t the same as saying “I’m sorry for saying you’re stupid. I know it’s wrong because it’s not true and made you feel hurt.”
  1. Value asking for and giving forgiveness: The question “Will you forgive me?” is more vulnerable than saying “I’m sorry,” but that’s what makes it so important for real reconciliation. There is no rule that another person has to forgive you, but asking for it shows how important the relationship is to the person asking. Let your kids know that if they’re not in a place to forgive another person right then, they can say, “I’m not quite ready to forgive but I’ll pray about it.”

by Tony Myles

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