Why I’m raising soft kids.

Life, recently.

Sweet mother of all that is holy and good, you guys, my heart has been so weary.

It feels like my skin is flipped inside out and I’m staring wide-eyed directly into the blazing hot sun during hurricane-grade winds that just will not let up. So many of our brothers and sisters are hurting. Deeply hurting. And it’s making everything feel so raw and rough and threatening. The dark moments have blurred into one endless teardrop and we are sad and scared.

Here is my recall on recent days in a series of brutal soundbites:

A four-year-old boy slips away from his parents at the zoo. Perhaps you know this feeling, too. If you don’t, allow me to humbly confirm that it is excruciating. In the moments to follow, this little explorer makes his way into a cage where he meets eyeball-to-eyeball with silverback gorillas. Can you even imagine it. The eldest gorilla, Harambe, is shot dead by zoo staff to ensure the child’s safety. The boy is returned to his parents with only scrapes and bruises. Thank you, God. Social media explodes. We’re outraged that the gorilla couldn’t be saved. We argue about whether the zoo staff is competent to do their jobs. We are critical of the parents for being so careless and terrible at life. We blame the zoo for faulty cages. We form strong positions on how WE would have managed these circumstances if the shoe were on the other foot, and when people don’t agree with us we simply scream louder. And, with all the noise we sort of forget about this little boy and his parents who just experienced something horrific and were no doubt crippled with an intense and unimaginable fear as this situation unfolded.

A college student rapes an unconscious young woman behind a dumpster. He is tried in court by a judge who offers terribly misguided empathy in the form of an abysmally short jail sentence. Social media explodes. We’re outraged that the judge went so easy on this criminal. We hate this rapist. We despise this rapist’s family. We spend a good deal of time discussing his picture and swimming career and passion for the culinary arts and his failing appetite. We toss around some memes because they have taken over the space where nervous laughter and awkward silence use to exist. We argue about whether we should use the term assault or rape. Attempts are made to shine a light on this victim and the brave young men that contacted the police. But, then more darkness strikes and we sort of forget about this girl who was left wounded and vulnerable and no doubt crippled with an intense and unimaginable fear in the wake of the attack.

A talented musician is shot dead after a live show. We are shocked and sad but only for about a minute because the evil that hits next sends us directly to our knees and we sort of forget about this beautiful soul taken from earth much too soon.

Friends and lovers are dancing and enjoying life at their favorite nightclub when a man opens fire, spraying bullets into the crowd. People run for exits. People collapse into pools of blood. People are trapped in small spaces. People desperately text loved ones but then the messages just stop coming. Can you even imagine the receiving and then the waiting. There is panic and screaming and helping and rescuing and sacrificing. The murderer is shot dead by police. Forty-nine people are dead. Many more are injured. The worst mass shooting in our country, ever. In an instant, everything is changed forever. Social media explodes. We’re angry about loose gun laws. We’re angry that people want to take our guns away. We argue about guns. We yell about mental health. We blame Muslims. We blame terrorists. We blame gay people. We blame the government. We blame the POTUS. We’re scared for our children. We’re scared for us. We’re scared for ME and MY CHILDREN. It maybe becomes more about protecting ourselves than we might be willing to admit. And while we’re shouting at each other we sort of forget that forty-nine funerals are being planned. Fifty if you include the young musician that we’ve already forgotten about.

A family is vacationing at the most magical place on earth. Millions of families have visited this very spot. But on this night at this time, while wading in shallow water by the resort, their toddler is attacked by an alligator and they watch on in desperation as this giant reptile drags their son out into dark water. Can you even imagine it. Police recover the child’s tiny, lifeless body. Social media explodes. We write more articles about perfect parenting. We write more articles about empathy. We blame the hotel for faulty signage. We blame the parents for being just the worst ever. While we are distracted with tidying up our glass houses we sort of forget that SOMEONE’S BABY WAS JUST KILLED BY AN ALLIGATOR.

And, you guys, how about the many among us who are quietly mourning life’s hardest moments from somewhere off camera, tucked away from social spaces? The five-year-old girl who just lost her battle with cancer. The mother who is saying goodbye to her transgender son who committed suicide because the bullying left him feeling absolutely unworthy. The blissfully-in-love young couple whose vehicle is struck head on by a drunk driver, instantly erasing their plans for a beautiful future together.

The hurting is always there, with or without our yelling and blaming and anger and righteousness. Isn’t it?

And all of these hateful and ugly things are making people frustrated and defensive and scared. And I absolutely get it. I’m frustrated, too. It is frustrating that we use up precious real estate yelling at each other. Space where love could live. And all of our finger-pointing and asking for our problems to be solved outside of ourselves leaves me feeling discouraged. Because the only difference we can ever really truly make is an inside job. I’m frustrated by our unwavering desire to be right. How can we possibly HEAR anything over all of our rightness? I’m concerned by how much we allow fear to lead us. A lot concerned, actually. It’s disheartening that humans all over our world are still regularly persecuted for attempting to be their authentic selves. There is so much hurting, everywhere. I’m frustrated that privilege is still power and it continues to make parts of us feel less than.

But, honestly, our frustrations aren’t helpful unless they motivate us to actually HELP. Right? And our choices are so important. Like many of you, I am acutely aware of how my reactions to life impact my kid’s reactions. They see us. They hear us. They mirror us. What reflection do we want staring back at them, even (and especially) when life feels unkind?

I recently read a sentiment that suggested we have “gone soft” as parents and this has led to a generation of wholly ungrateful and undisciplined and disrespectful young people. Our young people. And while the message didn’t resonate with me, that’s okay (it is more than okay, actually). I’m grateful to this friend for sharing because it made me stop and think deeply about what I really want for my kids. And it is this:

I want my kids to be soft. 

I do.

In a world full of rough edges and sharp corners, I want to raise humans who are gentle and kind.

When life is dark, I want them to always ALWAYS look for the light. And when fear’s grip tightens (which will happen because fear is a controlling a–hole), I want them to know that FEAR IS NEVER LIGHT. Ever. And this is the part where I hold their face in my hands and say, This is most important, baby. Please listen. Because fear is so convincing and it will take every ounce of their strength to remember in those hard moments that fear is never loving. Or kind. Or generous. Or compassionate. In fact, fear can’t survive in proximity to any of these things. When the world asks them to be scared and angry, I hope they are brave enough to lead relentlessly and unapologetically with love.

When they feel helpless and ready to toss up their hands to it all because they can’t do everything, I want them to remember that not everything is never a better or more helpful choice than at least something. And I hope the something they choose will be in support of WE not ME. And that they define WE as EVERY PART OF US. Because if their own comfort requires someone else to suffer, then that’s not really about us. That’s ego, and he is tooootally self-centered. And saying no to ego will be one of their most challenging life lessons. Because what could be more tempting than ensuring life feels great for ME and conveniently forgetting that all of those people over there are actually part of the very same humankind? Sweet child(ren) o’ mine, please BE HUMAN KIND.

I want them to know that life is mostly (read: completely) defined by our reaction to it. And this is a biggie, right guys? I mean, if we could band together and train up a giant flock of kind champions who also have the awareness needed to question their thinking and reaction to life, doesn’t that seem like some serious parenting triumph??

I want them to not only imagine what we would be capable of TOGETHER if we listened more than we defended, reached out more than we pushed away, celebrated our unique viewpoints more than we insulted our differences. I want them to DO and BE these things.

I want them to know that the path to peace is one paved with love. Love isn’t the solution. It’s how we get there.

The world needs our softness, kids.
Let’s do this thing.

310 thoughts on “Why I’m raising soft kids.

  1. cvb66 says:

    Funny, I posted a comment; not negative, but not necessarily in agreement with you and for some reason you rejected it. So let me be a little more blunt. I would like nothing better than to live in this imaginary world you have created. but the truth is children who only know how to be kind will be abused and taken advantage of. There is a reason Jesus told his disciples to sell their cloaks and buy a sword. Either way, I think your view is very narrow and your children will suffer for it. Not to worry though, Those of us who swore an oath to protect will do so, so you can live in your fantasy.

    Like

    • choosingkind says:

      My apologies – I didn’t delete any comments so not sure what happened, but it certainly wasn’t intentional. Thanks for sharing your perspective. We certainly do not need to share the same one for me to appreciate the lens in which you choose to view the world. Please rest easy in knowing we are raising strong humans. Kindness and strength, thankfully, don’t need to be mutually exclusive. And fear never had our best interests in mind, so we choose to lead relentlessly with love and question the thoughts and reactions that cause us to suffer. Thank you for taking time to read the post, even if it didn’t resonate with you. You have my gratitude.

      Like

      • cvb66 says:

        My first post was nicer, even had some loving kindness in there 😉 I really do like the goal of your blog. Even my Lord Jesus Christ expects us to be kind and loving. I have raised 2 children and have 3 more in “training”. having been blessed with a warriors heart, My primary role is to defend. So I guess my view may be a little narrow as well. A politician I am not, But my goal is to make the world a place where your dream can be a reality. I really do envy you your view, I just cant share it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • choosingkind says:

        I bet we have more sameness than we realize — both just seeking to live out our purpose in the world. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts on here – I really do appreciate it. 🙂

        Like

  2. whattheschujj says:

    I am having a bit of a tricky time with everything that’s happened over the pond and just posted on my blog. Whilst doing so I came across yours and how pleased I am!! Such an honest beautiful post. I completely agree with you xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mary says:

    Wow, that was different and nicely written. We tend to teach our kids to stand up for themselves, how to be independent, and how to share ( from a very young age). Compassion is teaching children how to be selfless and treat others in the same manner they would like to be treated. Yes, you are absolutely right. We live in a hurting world that lacks compassion. So I stand in agreement with you, let’s be soft.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. grandmapeachy says:

    Excellent post. We raised our children to respect others, have compassion for those who are hurting and in need, and to be responsible, kind, and loving adults. You’re doing a great job as a parent. The world needs more parents like you.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. waltika says:

    And the most important thing here is that a soft heart is the real strength. Shutting down our feelings and pretending to be tough is a recipe for a disastrous unhappy life. Learning to walk with an open heart and lovingkindness is the most important thing we can teach to our kids.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. My Crazy Life and How I Love It says:

    I loved this blog post. My son James is 2 and last week I had to sign an After Action Report due to the fact that three of his classmates bit him over a toy. When I inquired about the incident I discovered that he did not retaliate against the other children; in fact he is one of the only kids in his class that does not bit or hit or kick others. I was so proud of him for this and I truly believe that he is a gentle soul and is not at all aggressive.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. mythreeunderthree says:

    Wow Momma! You are my new favorite today. This is beautiful. My husband and I have been talking about these issues and I’ve had a hard time explaining to him why this hits home to me the way that it has. It’s because I want my children to love and be “soft.” To operate out of the fruits of the spirit and to embrace empathy and gentleness as their guide! Thank you so much.

    Liked by 2 people

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  9. annafernanda says:

    The only thing I can say is that there should be more mothers like you out there. It’s hard because people want to keep all suffering away from their children and this is understandable but impossible. They need to learn how to be kind and this shouldn’t be seen as soft. Love isn’t soft it’s virtuous and it has infinite power. Thank you for this!

    Liked by 2 people

    • choosingkind says:

      ^^ YESSS, I remember when this video started circulating and it is SO POWERFUL. If a culture doesn’t value caring, relationships, empathy… how do we relate to one another? Thank you for reminding me of this. And for reading the post and sharing with me. I am grateful! Please consider joining our growing community at http://www.facebook.com/choosingkind. Hope to see you there! 🙂

      Like

  10. Viet Chau Linh NGUYEN says:

    Hello,
    Thank you for following my blog. I am a Vietnamese student who now live in France and I’d like to translate your blogposts in Vietnamese in order to share them with people that I know. Do you accept it?
    Thank you for your very inspiring articles.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. kmarfise says:

    I commend you. I taught in a classroom in which children were taught to retaliate to the least provocation by their parents. I tried to teach them that it only made the snowball bigger, that kindness could squish the snowball. I know that I as a teacher made a small difference, but it is the parents, and the climate of compassion, understanding, and love that shapes a child.

    Liked by 2 people

    • choosingkind says:

      Oh, Meg. Wow! I’m so humbled and want you to know this put a big smile on my heart this morning! I will definitely take time to read through the details. Thank you so much for this. I am grateful 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  12. cjlanger says:

    I wasn’t sure what to make of your post when I started reading it. There are such extremes that exist in the world today and I was worried that was what this was about. I guess in a way it was, but in a good way. It concerns me that people are now able to lash out at others without empathy with ease. I think if people took a moment to look at a person’s situation from a different angle it would be harder to judge and point fingers and ridicule. In our society it seems that being kind is equated with weakness and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I believe it takes an extra amount of strength to be kind in the face of fear, anger, and hate. Thank you for taking the time to write this post!

    Liked by 3 people

  13. thebarma says:

    Literally crying while reading. I am also soft hearted and most of the time I feel it’s makes me different from many people around me. Sometimes I feel I don’t belong here. The world has become too rough for softness to grow. I try, I try hard to be good, to see the light in every being. This article makes me believe in myself more 😀 Thank you. God bless your kids.

    Liked by 1 person

    • choosingkind says:

      Thanks for taking time to read the post — I’m glad that despite your perspective being contrary you took time to explore it (particularly given the title and the way we often choose to perceive “softness” in our world). Thankfully, kindness and strength can absolutely exist together. In fact, the ability to maintain kindness even in the face of adversity takes tremendous strength. We can choose to lean in to the hard and the heavy parts of life, or we can extend a hand in those moments and relentlessly lead with love. Therein lies the beauty, I suppose. We each get to choose our path. Thank you again for reading the post. You have my gratitude. 🙂

      Like

  14. hbsuefred says:

    I’m sorry, but as the mom of two now twenty-something daughters, I must respectfully disagree. Maybe you can call me cynical or maybe you can see my point of view, which is generally middle of the road or the pendulum swing. That is, perhaps the safe or comfortable or optimal spot between soft and hard is possibly mushy, and that’s OK.

    Liked by 1 person

    • choosingkind says:

      Thank you for taking time to read the post and share your perspective. We definitely don’t need to share the same lens for me to admire and appreciate your point of view! That said, kindness and strength don’t need to be mutually exclusive. In fact, when the world wants us to get angry it takes tremendous strength to continue leading relentlessly with love and compassion and empathy. Shouting and defending and meeting hate with more of the same is an easier path, for sure. (And one that none of us are immune to…). I sense you and I likely have more in common than you may realize. And I bet you’ve raised two beautiful and strong humans. I’m so glad you took time to connect. Thank you! You have my gratitude 🙂 Please consider joining our growing community at http://www.facebook.com/choosingkind. I would love to see you there!

      Like

  15. Mer Mer says:

    Yes. All the yes’s! More than anything else , I want my children to love others. We teach to help whenever possible, whoever possible, and pray for those we can’t help.
    Just last week we received feedback that my 9 year old step son was the only kid at his summer camp who talked to the new kid. And was never asked to do so. Brand new to the camp and barely made the age cutoff, he was probably 5 or 6 years old. And yet he got to feel special all day because he hung out with one of the oldest kids in the summer camp.
    It brings my heart joy to know that other parents are proud when their kids do stuff like that.
    It’s not going soft. It’s going kind.
    Thanks for this post! It was a great “I’m too tired to sleep” read!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. amberwankenobi says:

    Thank you for this. In an attempt to raise my son the same way, so many people have a hard time understanding standing why. Not that it’s any of their business… But in a world full of cold and hate, to someone, somewhere, that moment of tenderness can make a world of change.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. BeingSnarky says:

    I feel like my heart is so opened and exposed by these tragedies. I hear everyone on the news and in social media scream out “How?” and “Why?”
    I think it is purposeless and ill-suited to respond with judgement and intellect at this moments. Respond with sympathy and heart. Can’t people see that is why they would want? Each of us will need the sympathy and empathy one day, so we shouldn’t be so quick with judgement and advice.

    Liked by 1 person

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