Parenting experts say that it’s important to model the qualities we want to see in our children. If we want to raise children who love to read, it helps if they see their parents reading. If we want to raise kind children, it helps if they see their parents being kind.
PKs (pastors’ kids) grow up in bipolar communities. They live in a world where people take casseroles to each other after births and deaths. And they also live in a world where they witness firsthand the hypocrisies – if not the cruelty – of church members. They also grow up among other kids whose parents hope their offspring will learn to be faithful and kind human beings in a spiritual community.
The world, however, privileges children who are “successful” rather than faithful and kind. How many of us parents have gotten together with other parents and – in catching up with each other – highlight our children’s successes? Success on the playing field. Impressive college acceptances. Cool new jobs.
This article – Stop Trying to Raise Successful Kids. And Start Raising Kind Ones by Adam Grant and Allison Sweet Grant reminds us that kindness seems to be in decline. We certainly don’t want our children to be bullies. But we also don’t want them to be pushovers. We want our children to be “the good kind of competitive.” We want them to help their peers just as long as they win at life.
When FBC and SBC were in high school, I made dinner for friends who were going through rough days, but I couldn’t take the dinner over there myself. TBC had an event. And so the boys were charged with driving the dinner over and I remember thinking, “It’s good for them to do this. They will remember what it feels like to care even for neighbors they don’t know very well.”
In the middle of TBC’s event, my phone started buzzing. I stepped out to take the call and FBC said, “Mom, we lost the cobbler.” A car in front of our car had stopped abruptly and peach cobbler had flown into the dashboard, into the AC vents, and all over SBC. What was left of the dinner made it to our friends’ house but what they remember is – not the act of taking dinner to friends in need but the reason why that car smelled like peach cobbler for the rest of the years we owned it.
Teaching kindness is not a one-time lesson. Most of us agree that the world seems endlessly divided. And the next election already feels like a referendum on the life and death of our nation. Every day I hear someone express how dire the future looks if a certain candidate is elected or if a certain candidate is not elected.
Between now and then, how can we be kind? How can we teach our children to be kind? It’s not enough to be “successful” especially if our success comes at the expense of others. My own young adult children who happen to be double PKs can be both ferocious and kind. And so can I.
I’m – for one – praying that I practice more kindness in the months leading up to the 2020 election. With a ferocity based on my faith in what Jesus teaches, it seems most faithful to be both.
And in the meantime, write notes of appreciation. Smile at dogs and children. Bake cobbler for those who need cobbler.