Bring kindness home

Kindness is a behavior marked by the quality of being generous, friendly, helpful, and considerate.

Editor’s Note: Today, February 17, is Random Acts of Kindness Day, an observance created by the Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Foundation to spread kindness by encouraging individuals, groups, and organizations to engage in acts of kindness. In line with Attachment Parenting International, RAK foundation is striving to make strides towards building a kinder, more compassionate world. 

As of late, I’ve been reflecting considerably on the notion of kindness. Perhaps it’s because, much like a mature tree, I’ve deepened my roots into the ground and spread my branches further out and up higher — I’ve grown more spiritual. Or, perhaps, it’s because I now bear fruits — I’ve become the mother of 2 children. Or, perhaps, it’s the fusion of both.

As I’ve become more rooted in recent years, I’ve evolved to become more kind to myself and others. In my role as a mother, I yearn for my kids to live in a kind world where gentleness and compassion is prevalent, not the exception. I also yearn for them to be kind to themselves, as well as others and the world — today, and always.

Often times, I’ve asked myself: What is the essence of kindness? What does it mean to be a kind person? Why are some people more kind than others? Why do some people find it challenging to act in kind ways? And, what can I do to promote more kindness on a personal level, in my family and the world?

The more I considered these questions, the more I realized that kindness has an essential element. Without it, kindness cannot stand. As I observe kind people all around me and as I watch acts of kindness carried out — small and big — I find a common thread: empathy.

Without empathy — the ability to feel another’s pain, the will to alleviate one’s suffering, or have sympathy — there is no space for kindness.

Parenting with Kindness

In the same way that empathy is a precursor for kindness to transpire, it is also a precursor for gentle, mindful parenting approaches such as Attachment Parenting.

For a parent to respond to their child with sensitivity and attentiveness — even when, at times, it presents many challenges — there needs to be a recognition on the parent’s part that the child needs to feel safe and secure, be nurtured, listened to, and have close physical contact. This is what the child needs — not merely wants at a particular stage of development, and not as an attempt to manipulate.

For instance, a 6-month-old baby may be breastfeeding more frequently at night due to a growth spurt or his need for soothing due to teething discomfort. When the parent is able to view a situation from their child’s perspective, attending to their needs in a gentle, kind way comes naturally.

Kindness Can Change the World

Through positive discipline, children learn to resolve conflicts devoid of violence. Children learn that inflicting pain on others, or acting in unkind ways towards others, is not appropriate. When we empathize with our children and kindly respond to them, they learn to respond to others in the same way.

When we teach kindness by modeling kindness thorough our parenting practices, we spread kindness. Our children’s behavior affects others — in a positive or negative way.

Imagine a world where every child is raised in a home with the frame of kindness. Can you envision the beautiful, serene picture I do?

Inspired to read more about kindness?

Editor’s pick: A kindness movement inspired by a potato

Kindness is contagious

Nurturing peace for world harmony

Raising compassionate kids in a violent world

logo that hopefully doesnt change colorEditor’s Note:  This post was originally published on 6/24/2016. Through this year’s AP Month theme, “Nurturing Peace: Parenting for World Harmony,” we have been focusing on promoting peace and harmony in the home as well as around the world. This article is a great reminder that despite the many challenges violence can pose, we can still cultivate compassion and peace in our children.

API promotes parenting practices that create strong, healthy emotional bonds between children and their parents. For life.

So they can take those bonds with them into their adult lives and share them with their children. And their children can do the same.

A life cycle of compassion and connection.

Today, we are featuring resources from the National Association of School Psychologists that offer guidelines for dealing with the difficult subject of children and violence — in particular, war and terrorism.

In recent years, increasingly, there have been numerous heartbreaking mass shootings and terror activities in the United States and around the globe.

In the aftermath of such distressing incidents, many parents are wondering how to react: How much information? What and how should we communicate to our kids? And as we reflect on such painful incidents and move towards healing, another imperative question we need to ask ourselves is, What role do we play, as parents to children who will become the adults of tomorrow?

With ongoing wars, mass shootings and terrorist threats, it can be challenging to escape the display of violence from the extensive media and internet coverage — it’s a heavy dose for children to bear. While we should do our best to limit our kids’ exposure to violence, we should also acknowledge that this is the reality of the world we live in, and we need to navigate around helping children find comfort and provide them with the support they need. It is our responsibility as parents and caregivers to address our children’s emotional needs — to that end, they need us to help them understand and cope with the phenomenon of violence.

heart-pain-shadowIt’s unrealistic to think that we can completely shield our kids from being exposed to incidents, such as the recent one in Orlando. Albeit, as parents, we can foster a secure environment in our homes for our children to be resilient in the face of tragedies. API promotes a secure emotional bond in the parent-child relationship — cultivating trust, a sense of security, social competence, confidence, and empathetic qualities in a child…all of which are beneficial when experiencing adversities.

Open communication, honesty, and trust between a parent and a child are essential ingredients for developing a strong relationship — one that is valuable when dealing with sensitive, emotional-trigger situations. This guide explores tips for parents and educators to help children cope with terrorism.

Naturally, children may feel angry and frightened in their reaction to acts of violence. To help them work through emotionally charged issues in a positive way, is it helpful to teach them compassion, empathy, and kindness in our homes and our schools.

The following are some helpful tips to consider in promoting compassion and acceptance in crisis:

  1. Model compassion and acceptance of differences — Children take their emotional cues from the significant adults in their lives.
  2. Provide useful information — Accurate information about people, events, reactions, and feelings is empowering. Use language that is developmentally appropriate for children.
  3. Stop any type of harassment or bullying immediately — Make it clear that such behavior, in any form (in person, online, social media) is unacceptable. Talk to the children involved about the reasons for their behavior.
  4. Explore children’s fears — Even children who can describe what happened may not be able to express fears, questions, or describe assumptions or conclusions they may have made. Use activities, role-playing, and discussions to explore their fears about the events and their feelings about various groups from diverse cultures or lifestyles.
  5. Identify “heroes” of varying backgrounds involved in response to traumatic events — These include firefighters, police officers, rescue workers, military personnel, public officials, medical workers, teachers, faith leaders, public figures, and regular citizens who work to help keep students, families, schools, and communities safe.
  6. Read books with your children or students that address prejudice and hate — There are many, many stories appropriate for varying age groups that can help children think about and define their feelings regarding these issues.

Parents are their children’s first and most empowering role models. Meeting our children’s needs by nurturing them with sensitivity, kindness, and compassion serves as a model for children to observe and learn how to conduct themselves in this world. We are making the most precious investment there could be: As today’s children will become tomorrow’s adults, a life cycle of compassion and connection will pave the way for a more peaceful, compassionate world for future generations.

Modeling empathy to promote peace

logo that hopefully doesnt change colorI believe empathy is one of the most important aspects in promoting peace.  Children who are taught to be empathetic and who witness empathy will, in turn, show more empathy to others.

I attempt to teach empathy to my children through positive discipline, responding sensitively to their needs and emotions, and being present for them. I do my best to create a safe space for their emotions and to be a model of peaceful interactions with others.

Nowadays in my family, modeling empathy often occurs when helping my 4-year-old son wait while his sister has the toy he wants. I empathize with his emotions of frustration while also explaining that she would be sad if he took the toy from her.

When my 2-year-old daughter pouts, “I wasn’t ready to go to bed,” I choose to show her compassion. I acknowledge that she’s sad and say something like, “I know it’s hard to stop playing and go to bed, especially when your brothers are still awake, but now it’s time for us to cuddle together, and I’ll sing to you.”

With my 6-year-old son, we talk about how his strong emotions like anger are OK but that we need to work together to find appropriate outlets for those feelings.

Mommy Daddy Child BeachBeing sensitive to my children’s emotions works in helping them have more peaceful interactions with others. When my oldest son was 2, I remember hearing him putting his stuffed animals to sleep, speaking very gently to them and being present with them as I was with him. Now, at age 6, I see him express concerns for others when they get injured. Even my youngest child, only 2, will ask if I’m OK when I get hurt.

For my children today, opportunities for empathy happen most often in interactions with classmates, neighbors, and each other. But someday when they’re grown, I believe it will translate into their relationships with coworkers, spouses, their own children, and others they encounter in their lives. This is how practicing Attachment Parenting and being sensitive, responsive, and empathetic to our children can help create peace outside of the family and in the greater community.

A prayer for the motherless daughter

logo that hopefully doesnt change colorLesehu was her name. She was only 18 months old when her mama — like so many in Botswana, Africa — died from AIDS.

I met her at the daycare center that my friend Marie Jose, a Catholic nun with 20 years of service in that country, had quickly put together to address the emergency of the alarming number of orphaned children as the pandemic took more lives each day.

As the numbers of orphans at the center grew, the children took care of the toddlers while the overwhelmed volunteers worked to give them all a good meal and make sure they were safe for the time they were there.

Sister Marie asked me what could be done for this little baby, Lesehu, who was so despondent that she barely moved at all. She did not eat, would not walk, and she had the expressionless face of a person in deep shock. Her mama was gone. Her world had completely changed in the most incomprehensible way. She was like a boat whose moorings had been severed, floating with nothing to anchor to, adrift in feelings that were too much for a tiny person of such a tender age.

I gently put her in my lap and hummed softly to her heart. After some time, she let me feed her while my concerned friend watched and nodded that this was good. Soon after, the traumatized child fell asleep in my arms. When it was time to go, I left some Bach Rescue Remedy with the caretakers for her. I placed a feather light kiss on her little forehead with all the force of my love.

No parent wants another family’s child to be left in a bad situation. So we make donations where our contribution will help. We might sign petitions or call our representatives to try to have impact on the conditions that cause such calamity. These actions have important value. But in this world of ours, there will always be those little ones who find themselves dependent on the care of strangers since their mama is no longer there.

rope heartWe know from emerging scientific study that the energy, the potent essence, of thought and heartfelt concern does indeed travel across time and space to reach the ones for whom we are directing our attention. The field of nursing has a substantial body of research about the positive impact of prayer on the recovery of patients after surgery. Plants grow measurably better when someone has sent them positive energy. The Institute of HeartMath conducts pioneering work on the reach of the quantifiable energy of the human heart as it communicates to others across great distances.

Yet, independent of what science has to say about it, whispering a deeply felt wish on behalf of another person is just something we instinctively do. It’s built into us to focus our caring into a prayer for another’s well-being, to keep them safe, increase their happiness, or to bless them.

From my side of the world, I have thought of Lesehu often and wished that there was a way I could ease her sorrow. So it was a great relief when I realized that I could — this is my prayer for her:

May the love of the Divine Mother soothe your sorrow and dry your tears. I offer my piece of that energy to you now with all my heart.

May you be certain that the Mommy who gave you life wanted you to live and to thrive. She watches over you still.

There is nothing you could have done that would have changed how things happened, so let that doubt rest.

May you always know that you are worthy of love and deserving of happiness.

May you have thoughts that bring you peace and ease the longing for that which you do not have because of circumstances beyond your control.

May you reach for healthy relationships that fill you up with the sweetness of sincere caring.

May you make the best choice for your highest good in every instance so that your confidence in yourself grows as you grow.

May you believe in yourself, because I believe in you. 

May there always be someone kind nearby to encourage you, to celebrate your successes, and to comfort you when you need it. 

May a kind woman’s hands braid your hair with tenderness and let you know that becoming a woman is a wonderful miracle.

May you draw to you people and experiences that nurture you, that delight you, and that show you that you are creating the life of love and happiness that is your birthright. 

When you become a woman, may you have the confidence to pass gracefully into all that will come to you in this lifetime.

May you find true love with the soul who will adore you and cherish your true essence.

May you know that in your belly is the spring of life that connects you to the woman who brought you into the world.

May you laugh and giggle freely — I will hear you and smile, little daughter.

May this love I send out reach all children everywhere who can benefit from it. 

What if we do have the ability to shift the suffering of another person by sending our love and concern to them via the “quantum telegraph service”?

I am going to respond with that human instinct, because it feels true to believe that though I cannot touch this precious child’s face, perhaps my voice can be a whisper of love that touches her heart.

Compassion, balance and truth in parenting

lisa feiertag 3Compassion.

What does this word mean to you?

I see compassion as being open to seeking the truth in any given moment. As a parent, I am constantly invited inward in order to seek my truth. Our children and partners have their own truths. It can be challenging when I am forced to find the truth that lies within each person in my family.

Truth.

What does this word mean to you? It may mean being honest, open and vulnerable. It might mean only speaking what you know to be right or it could mean a variety of other different options.

Truth, as I am speaking of now, is the inner voice that each person brings into the world. It is that innate wisdom that we each hold. It is the intuition that guides us forward as we are making decisions within our lives.

Our children are born with their own truths, and as parents, we are invited to take part in assisting our kids as they open to that guidance. Compassion arises when we are open to seeking out those truths.

“Compassion is the basis of all truthful relationship. It means being present with love for ourselves and all of life.” ~ Ram Doss

This quote is one that resonated with me the minute I heard it. The words brought on a new level as I began to understand how they may play out in my role as a parent. It reminded me of one of Attachment Parenting International‘s Eight Principles of ParentingStrive for Personal and Family Balance — for it is when we are in love with ourselves that we can find what is needed to nurture another.

Finding balance and taking time for my needs has been one of the most challenging aspects to the role of being a parent.

When my daughters were both under the age of 5, I thought that taking time to myself was a joke. How could any parent do that? Don’t we need to be fully engaged with our children all the time no matter what?

I could not have been further from my truth. What I was missing in my thinking was that when I took time to engage in activities that nourished me, I was able to offer myself compassion…which leads to hearing my wisdom…which allows me to be fully present to my children and their truths.

What I needed in those early years was permission to allow for self-compassion. I needed to know that not only was it OK for me to take a few moments to myself, but it was absolutely vital.

Compassion requires balance and a willingness to be available to yourself. This is the key to my parenting that has served me well as my daughters are growing older.

The beauty is that I have taken the steps to implement this message into my daily routines and my daughters have both been witnesses to this. They have seen what it looks like when I am in balance and what it looks like when I am a mess — yes, those days happen! From those observations, my children are empowered to find what is needed for them to be centered, mindful and aware of their own truth.

Being Compassionate with Yourself

toddlerYesterday evening, my family got together with another family for dinner. While my own kids are now 9 and 6, the kids in the other family are 4 and 2.

Dining with a 2 year old, especially, was a walk down memory lane for me and my husband. While my kids are still working on some of the finer details of proper etiquette, they no longer drink from a sippy cup, require a bib or throw their food on the floor. And when my kids aren’t at the table, I don’t need to keep my eyes on them at every moment. They know not to climb up on the stove or run out of the front door into traffic.

As children grow, it’s very easy to forget what life was like a few short years ago. Kids always keep us hopping as they move on to new adventures and challenges. I feel like all of my parental brain space is taken up with what I’m dealing with right now. There just isn’t much mental energy left to recall in fine detail what it was like to parent a toddler.

When I spend time with someone else’s toddler, though, it all comes back to me.

As I look back over my children’s early years, one of the things I wish is that I had been gentler with myself. From this side of the fence, I can see that parenting a busy toddler is a lot of work. Parenting a busy toddler and a baby at the same time is even more work.

It’s no wonder that, when my children were small, my house wasn’t as clean as I wanted it to be all the time — that I was so tired in the evenings, that I sometimes struggled to stay in touch with my friends or run errands or find time to get my hair cut.

toddler

One of Attachment Parenting International‘s Eight Principles of Parenting is Respond with Sensitivity. The idea is that we build a bond of trust and lay the foundations for empathy by understanding our children’s needs and responding appropriately. In the process, we nurture a secure attachment with our children. They learn that they can count on us to be there when they need us, and this helps them to develop the confidence to venture off into the world independently when they’re ready.

Our children aren’t the only ones who can benefit from sensitivity. We can benefit from responding sensitively to our own needs. When we’re really busy with life and work and parenting young children, our own needs often take a backseat to everything else that is going on. In fact, we may even beat up ourselves, because we can’t do everything perfectly all the time. I think that’s too bad.

Now that my children are a little older, I can say with confidence that while life is hectic during those infant and toddler years, they don’t last forever and things do get easier. By being as gentle as possible with yourself while you’re in the thick of things, taking care of little ones who need a lot of your attention and energy, you’re demonstrating sensitivity and empathy to your children.

We want our kids to grow into caring and compassionate people. One of the ways we encourage that is by being caring and compassionate toward our children. Another way that we do that is by being caring and compassionate with ourselves. When you cut yourself slack, you teach your children how to recognize and take care of their own needs.

Achieving balance is hard, and it requires us to constantly re-assess and re-evaluate what’s happening in our lives. As children grow and change, the balance changes, too. At every stage, though, compassion is a great tool. Whether that means dragging yourself out of sleep in the middle of the night to respond sensitively to a teething baby or being gentle with yourself because the vacuuming didn’t get done (again), the compassion is the same.

And those lessons in sensitivity and compassion will last long after the toddler years are over.

Choose Compassion

API-EmailProductIt’s likely, as a reader of the APtly Said blog, you’ve done it. You looked at the world, at families, at children, and said, “I choose compassion.”

In choosing compassion, you really have made so many choices. A choice to become educated about parenting and prepare to welcome your child into the world; a choice to try to respond with sensitivity to your child and others; a choice to be present with your child and nurture your child’s health and emotional well-being; and a choice to live out compassion in many other ways that are intentional and meaningful to you. You practice compassion. Now here is a chance to wear it.

Selfless apparel approached API to say they have a mission to help nonprofits, and they want to support our mission. As their charity beneficiary, we are excited to have teamed up with them to bring you the “Choose Compassion” campaign.

Beautifully designed by their talented team, a Choose Compassion shirt represents so much opportunity!

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  • Wearing your Choose Compassion shirt means you helped to financially sustain and develop parenting support networks benefiting caregivers and children.
  • It represents a chance to create awareness about Attachment Parenting every time someone compliments you, asks what it means to you, or asks where you purchased it.
  • It encourages the volunteer Leaders, staff, donors, and all those freely giving their time on behalf of others.
  • It generates a connection and supports a movement as together we take this one week to visibly Choose Compassion in unison.

Already we have reached our initial goal, and we are thrilled! We thank those who have made purchases and who’ve been so complimentary about the campaign.

But let’s do something extraordinary. Just visit the site and check out the shirts–see if you can help us push beyond to a new goal. Each shirt represents so much more than clothing each time you wear it–together we are all choosing compassion.

API-Female-Scoop-Royal-541There are two more days to purchase your shirt or purchase gifts before the campaign is over. We hope you will seize the moment and show your support. After that? Wear your shirt, continue to support the movement for compassionate parenting and raising children with healthy, secure attachment, and make a difference in your home and in the world.

Thank you for your support!

Purchased your shirt? Remember the API 2013 Annual Appeal, vital for meeting its 2014 budget, and consider your donation today.

The Importance of Empathy

As mothers, especially those of us who practice attachment parenting; we truly believe that there is nothing more precious than our children. We love them unconditionally and raise them to be kind, loving, and compassionate towards others. We understand the importance of meeting our children’s unique and individual needs, and we strive to treat them with respect and understanding.

 

Credit MicrosoftOffice.com Clipart Photography collection

Growing up I was taught to treat everyone equal. “Treat others in the same manner that you would want to be treated” my mother would say. Why? Because it is the right thing to do. Now that I am a mother I realize that not only is it the right thing to do, but it is the necessary thing to do for several reasons. The whole theory behind AP is that by raising our children in an empathetic manner, we will be raising a more empathetic generation of children who are aware of the needs and feelings of others. This type of chain has the potential to impact society in a massively positive manner. I teach my daughter to be kind to others regardless of their differences not only because I want her to grow up to be a kind, compassionate member of society, but also because her peers will be right there alongside her as she grows. The way that children are treated now drastically impacts the way they will behave later in life.  Children who are treated with kindness will generally grow to be kind individuals, while children who are bullied, teased, and treated like outcasts have a far greater chance of growing up to be hardened, distrusting, and aggressive. I would much rather my daughter grow to be surrounded by positive, empathetic, and caring people than by people who have been conditioned to expect the worst.

Credit MicrosoftOffice.com Clipart Photography collection

In filling in for another daycare provider last week, I was faced with the task of explaining to several children the importance of being kind and patient to a child with behavioral issues. I explained to them that they needed to be understanding and accepting of his differences and to treat him the same way that they want to be to treated. When this kind of acceptance is taught from an early age, it begins to shape the way that our children behave towards others. By raising our children to be kind and accepting, we are shaping a kinder and brighter future. And that’s the kind of world we want our children to live in!

Credit MicrosoftOffice.com Clipart Photography collection

A simple act of kindness can go a very long way.

 

 

 

 

Jillian Amodio is an author, writer, speaker, and Attachment Parenting advocate. First and foremost however she is a wife and mother. Jillian believes that family is life’s most precious gift. Her passion for family and parenting has led her to devote much of her work to educating others about topics pertaining to family, marriage, and parenting. Visit her website and blog to learn more about her work.

 

 

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