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?

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Kindness is contagious

Nurturing peace for world harmony

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.

Reflecting on 20 years of API

By Barbara Nicholson, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International (API) and coauthor of Attached at the Heart with Lysa Parker

API-Logo-20th-themeOn June 6, Lysa and I celebrated the official 20th anniversary of Attachment Parenting International’s founding, but as we like to say: It took us 20 years of teaching and parenting experience to lead us to a decision to start the nonprofit parenting organization you know as API.

As many of you know, we were special education teachers before we became mothers, then La Leche League (LLL) Leaders, students of Attachment Theory and researchers of the childhoods of all kinds of famous and infamous people.

It became obvious that someone needed to do something to help parents navigate the confusing messages we get from our culture: “If you pick them up, you’ll spoil them.” “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” “They’re only doing that to get attention.” “Break the will of the strong-willed child.”

All of these cultural “truths” are in exact opposition to clear and overwhelming research and biographical data on the optimum care and treatment of children. Yet, despite decades of studies, most parents and professionals are still very confused and misinformed! This is the result of the power of cultural myth, family dynamics and imprinting, and excellent marketing of products including books and magazines that have only profit — not child welfare — as their goal.

The journey to this remarkable milestone has been a long one but full of incredible memories and remarkable people.

api 1st exhibit at lll indiana 1994We had our first official “exhibit” for API at the La Leche League of Indiana conference in 1994. There, we met Edwina Froehlich, one of the LLL founders, who was so incredibly kind and supportive.

We later met all of the founders of LLL, who told us that if they hadn’t been so overwhelmed with focusing just on breastfeeding education and support, they would have loved to do what we were doing: focusing on parent education. It was obvious to them that their model of mother-to-mother support was needed by all parents, whether they were breastfeeding or not, as parenting is so demanding without mentors, peers and listening ears.

early api bodIn the early years, we leaned heavily on dear friends in our Nashville, Tennessee, USA, community to serve on our Board of Directors, staff our little office — which for seven years was in Barbara’s house — and volunteer for fundraising efforts. Many were LLL Leaders and friends, and others were like-minded professionals at local universities like Vanderbilt.

Lysa had a teacher friend in Alabama, USA, that was learning how to put up a website on the then-new Internet. She designed a very simple website for us, forcing us to get up to speed, create email addresses and come in to the 21st Century!

Amazingly we heard from some moms in Seattle, Washington, USA, who wanted to be our first API Support Group. We were off!

Of course, our Board was instrumental in helping us define our Eight Principles of Parenting, mission and vision. It’s an ongoing creative group that serves on our Board and other councils today, from all over the world!

There are too many people to thank here, but we want to mention Dr. Elliott Barker, the founder of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the journal, Empathic Parenting. He was an incredible mentor to us as we struggled with the idea of founding a nonprofit. He was instrumental in opening doors to other professionals, guiding us in our vision and mission, warning us of those who might oppose us and even helping us design stationary so we could look professional when we wrote letters! He was so thrilled that our organization had a simple model of parent-to-parent support, which was in his experience one of the most-needed components in society.

Dr. Barker’s work with violent young offenders in the Canadian prison system confirmed what Dr. John Bowlby was seeing in England: These young people were all suffering from the lack of love and affection from a parental figure, and the only way to stem the tide of crime and violence is to support parents in their capacity to give love to their children.

Writing this brings back a flood of memories, reinvigorating why we started API and the gratitude for all the loving people who have given so selflessly of their time and expertise to help families grow strong in love and connection. To all of you who continue to lend your support, we send our love and passionate thanks.

Happy 20th Anniversary, API!