• AfroDaddy

Killing With Kindness

Ever since my boys could talk, we have faced an unexpected problem.


But before I tell about the problem and what our current solution is, I need to give you a bit of background about the family.


We have two boys, who were born 18 months apart (how that happened is a story for another day), so there isn't much of a older brother/younger brother power dynamic between them.


Even though they get along really well, they have quite different personalities. Different, but equally strong - so you can imagine how often they butt heads. This happens most often when they want to play with someone...but neither are willing to do what the other one wants to do.

Brothers sitting on beach
Sometimes they can just chill together...sometimes

So there is this constant power struggle between them, and one of the most used tactics in their battle for daily supremacy is to let me know when the other one is doing something they shouldn't be...ie. "Tell on".


Now, here's the problem - I want them to always come to me when they think that something isn't right, or feels wrong and dangerous and this is especially true if it involves their brother.


But I don't want to raise a couple of snitches. We all know what happens to snitches...


Seriously though - I do want them to trust each other, and that means that sometimes one brother would choose not to reveal what the other is doing.


And this is where we get to the problem (finally): How do I teach my boys to know when to tell on each other, and when to leave it alone?


My solution was simple: What is the kind thing to do?


I want them to ask themselves, "I am telling dad this because I know he doesn't want us to do this thing, or do I just want to get my brother in trouble?"


If it is the latter option, then it's best just to leave it.


Look, they are only 7 and 8 years old at the moment, so they are still grappling with the concept, but I've discovered that asking the question, "Is this kind?" has been the solution to many issues in my house.


So when my boys ask me why we want them to behave in a certain way, we avoid saying "Just because this is what we do", and we instead show them that this is the kind way behaving.


It's kind to be grateful.

It's kind to clean up after yourself.

It's kind to listen before speaking.

It's kind to work hard at work or at school.

It's kind to compliment.

It's kind to positive.

It's kind to be honest.

It's kind to be welcoming.

It's kind to do what other people want to do sometimes.


Fortunately, my wife is one of the kindest people I know, and I'm working on being more kind, so we can often use our own behaviour as examples. This is key to this strategy - you can't expect your children to speak kindly to each other, or to you, or to other people, if they see and hear you being disrespectful.


It's so much easier to say, "Hey - mom and I don't talk to you in that way, so you don't have to either".


The same goes for all the ways to be kind - you have to show them how to be kind and why it's important.


Now, as a dude, raised by a manly man and who went to an all-boys' school for 12 years...the idea of kindness feels a bit...soft. That's what my gut reaction to all of this is, but the more I've thought about this, the more I realise that kind does not always equal soft.

We (read: I) definitely need to change our mindset


Sure, sometimes gentleness is required, but often, being kind requires extreme toughness. I guess as you practice kindness more, you'll get better at knowing what each situation needs.


And that is why I keep reminding my sons that "In this house, we practice kindness". I hope they get it eventually!