I keep seeing books on teaching kids to be kind…

and was even told books on kindness are selling right now and I should write my next book on kindness. I don’t think we will ever have enough books on being kind to others but what about teaching our kids to be kind to themselves. Maybe if we did that we would be kinder to each other.

Self-compassion is extremely important for adults. It helps to reduce anxiety and depression. It’s been linked to greater well-being, emotional coping skills, and compassion for others. Doesn’t this sound like something we should be teaching our children. I think so but it’s hard to teach something if we are not practicing it ourselves or maybe were never taught selfcompassion.

This past weekend we were traveling home from San Francisco and my daughter forgot her backpack on the tram to the airport. The backpack had her new camera from Christmas, homework, and a blanket she had since before she was born. You see where this is going…

We were walking into the airport and she screamed out I forgot my backpack.

There are 3 ways I could have reacted.

  1. Yelled at her for being so forgetful and made her feel bad about herself. This would have reinforced the process of not being kind to ourselves.
  2. Ask her where she left it, come up with a plan to see if we could find it and stay calm.
  3. Tell her that everything will be fine and then do everything I can do to fix it for her.

If it were me at her age I know I would have gotten yelled at and probably told how could you have done this and most likely we would not have gone back to look for the backpack. I would be left feeling shameful without the tools to get back to being kind to myself.

How do you think I reacted?

I would have liked to yell but I knew that wouldn’t get us the backpack back and I knew how it felt to be yelled at and I never want to make my daughter feel that way.

Being an experienced traveler with my daughter we try (does not always happen) to leave a little early when traveling to the airport. We have to take BART (subway) then a tram to get to the airport. After she told us she forgot her pack back, I yelled out Oh Shoot!! I asked her where did she leave it and she said on the tram. She had taken it off to swing from the poles!!

We turned around and went back across multiple lanes of cars up to the tram station to see if it was turned in. The nice man said no but ride the tram back to the other station to see if someone turned it in there.

As we are trying to decide what to do my daughter says she now has to go to the bathroom and she cannot hold it! My husband rides the tram back as my daughter and I go back to the airport to use the restroom.

As we are walking back to the airport my daughter is in tears saying out loud she was so mad at herself for leaving her backpack.

I tried to think of something brilliant to say to her. The only thing I can think of is lets visualize your backpack with wings coming back to us and lets be grateful we are healthy and made it to the airport early so we have time to go look for it. She looks at me and says, “I’ll be grateful if we find it.” Then she says, “I have had my blanket since I was a little girl mama and I really want it back. We can’t replace it.” Tears are now in my eyes!!

I didn’t want to say it’s okay that you left it or that I would buy her everything in it again to make those tears go away. Though that was my first thought, I knew I had to be strong. I cannot take away all the consequences of things that happen, no parent can do that. I needed to say something that was real but kind.

I want her to be kind to herself and as we all make mistakes, I was kind to her for making this mistake. I didn’t yell at her. How could I get mad when I forget things all the time. It’s natural to make mistakes as none of us are perfect. Maybe we yell because we don’t want to feel our child’s sadness and being mad at them is easier on us. I try to teach my daughter that there is
no such thing as perfect. We are human and are supposed to make mistakes because that is one of the ways we learn.

I knew that I couldn’t make her tears go away if we didn’t get the backpack back and that is hard on any parent. Instead, after walking back to the tram to wait for my amazing husband to return from the other station, we went up and asked the transit officer if the backpack had been turned in. The kind gentlemen said it had not because the tram car we were in had not returned yet but was on its way. It would be the next tram to arrive.

The officer than asked us what car we left it in and after my daughter told him because she remembered, he said he would go look for it when the tram pulled into the station. When the tram pulled in we held our breaths while he went looking for it. It seemed like forever. By being real and focusing on what we could do at that moment I was able to treat her with kindness
and she could then be kind to herself. If I want my daughter to be kind to herself and others than I have to be kind to her.

The next time your child makes a mistake, think about how your reaction will make your kid feel. Try to lead by example, by being kind to yourself and the rest will follow.

Lets love and be kind to ourselves!!!

PS. The nice gentleman who helped us found my daughter’s backpack!! We were all grateful!!

about the author

Keri Collins is a children’s author who helps kids and parents better themselves by making better choices. She blogs about parenting and kids’ issues, and offers plenty of tips and other advice.