Tony Morrison said a now famous quote "when a child walks in a room, your child or any child, do your eyes light up? That is what they are looking for." In so many ways, I feel this quote is at the center of raising kind kids.
Let me back up for just a moment. I know this quote seems like it's more about how a parent reacts, accepts, and responds to their kid than it is about raising kind kids. And, in some ways, it is.
So often, parents can say I show love by…"putting food on the table" or "helping them look presentable" or "teaching them life's lessons" or "making money so they can do buy what they want." Or…you fill yours in the blank.
We all do this to some extent. I know that I do. Mine is…"stepping down from my career to be at home more."
But the reality is that this is an adult's view of looking at love. Not a kids.
I'm not a psychologist and would never claim to be. But, a kid's view of love is going to be based on how they feel.
Do they feel warm and fuzzy when they walk in the room? Or do they feel criticized?
Do they feel like they are always being told they are wrong about something? Or, do they feel like what they say matters?
Do they feel like their parents accept them as they are? Or, do they feel like they need to pretend to be something they are not?
A parent's approval, acceptance, and love is a kid's instinct for survival. This is not new science nor a new idea. The question is how do you make your kid FEEL your love and acceptance.
So, what does this have to do with raising kind kids?
For kids to give love, they need to know love. For kids to be kind, they need to know kindness. For kids to accept others, they need to know acceptance. They need to FEEL these in order to give them to others.
Our kids depend on us to show them the way. They depend on us to show them how to act when someone walks in the room. They depend us to show them what it means to feel love, kindness, and acceptance.
When we show this to them and they FEEL it from us, they will then know exactly how to show it to others.
This quote has pushed me to be even more intentional about how I react when my children walk in a room, when I drop them off or pick them up from school, or when I put them to bed at night. These seemingly small, but incredibly important moments add up to a child’s perception of whether they are loved and accepted.
So, how do YOU react when your kid walks in the room? Do you immediately tell them to go fix something, brush their hair, clean the room? Do you roll your eyes or ignore them?
Or, do your eyes light up with love, kindness, and acceptance? Do you hug them? Do you connect with them?