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Kindness + Reality Teaches

This is the seventh installment of an eight-part series.


Before you decide that “kindness teaches best” is some kind of frufru, no-accountability form of permissive parenting, hold on a second. It’s only one half of the equation. The other side is reality.

Here’s how this works. When a kid does something that leads to an unpleasant reality, you can trust the consequence to speak for itself. You don’t have to lecture them about it; reality is enough. Reality teaches.

Add kindness to that — by which I mean empathy and genuine openness to the discomfort they’re facing — and you not only bring home a lesson; you show them that you’re in their corner, that they can trust you.

Note, this approach does not work as long as you’re trying to remove every pebble from your child’s road. But if you’re not protecting them from the consequences of their actions, if you’re letting them face things, you will find that reality is the best teacher in the world. Especially if you bear in mind that it’s really important to be kind. Not sarcastic or preachy. Reality is more eloquent than any lecture you could come up with, and it’s harder to tune out.

So, as hard as it is to refrain from jumping in, it’s best if you don’t interfere with the natural consequences of your kids’ actions. And it’s best if you can be there for them when they’re suffering, to say that you’ve been there, and you know they’ll pull through — because you believe in them. Because you know that they’re capable of learning things for themselves. Because that’s what it takes to help a person do better next time.

(To be continued next week.)