Kids playing with "hat box,"
L to R, Spencer (pirate hat), Molly (party hat), Pierce (straw hat), Charlie (Robin Hood hat).
On my two previous Mommy Mumdays, I covered the first two of the “Three Rs” of raising kids (and being better grownups too). Numbers One and Two are Responsibility and Respect. As we teach our children to “own” the consequences of their actions (responsibility), plus treat everyone and everything with dignity and care (respect), we also need to do a self check and make sure we’re scoring well with those characteristics ourselves.
Number Three of the “Three Rs” is Relationship. Being in right relationship with others requires competence in the first two areas, Responsibility and Respect. When we take responsibility for what is ours to care for and for the things that result from our words and actions (or lack of either), our relationships with others and with what is around us will be healthier. When we treat those in our circles with dignity (and their belongings and what they value), relationships will be a whole lot easier. By the way, you don’t have to agree completely, or at all, with another person to treat them with dignity. Just think what a better world it would be if everyone just treated others with dignity. A lot less of everything bad.
Our kids need to know how important relationships (other people) are, and how to navigate through relationships in order to make it in the world—which includes family, friends, school/work mates, tough neighbors, angry strangers, etc. And the way they learn it? We have to show them. (This is where self-examination/self-reflection is crucial. We have to see how we are in these areas, and then learn and adjust as we go along.)
• We have to model communication: how to keep the conversation going even when it’s uncomfortable or hard, and how to do it with respect.
• We have to model conflict resolution: how to problem solve, which means identifying issues and developing a plan to find and enact answers.
• We need to model love and grace: how to express (verbally and nonverbally) valuing and cherishing others, and accepting them unconditionally (that means valuing someone is never given or taken based on what the other does, says, or anything, so it’s never tied to behavior or used as leverage). Love and grace includes kindness and forgiveness.
• We need to model sticking with it for the long haul, not throwing in the towel (or giving the silent treatment or having a tantrum) the minute things don’t go our way.
Learning to navigate relationships well will equip our children (and us—it’s never too late to improve) to be better members of our families and communities.
When my kids were two we had a play date at our house with a singleton (that’s one of those babies who is born one at a time). The five toddlers were in the living room playing happily along. Then the singleton did what normal toddlers do and grabbed a toy away from one of my kids and pronounced it was “Mine!”
What happened next illustrates a point for me. My kids had never experienced that particular trait in toddlers. Being one of four gave them a different worldview, which was neither worse nor better. Owning nothing of their own and believing they had to share every stinking thing in the world, my kids were simply acting based on their understanding of the rules of engagement up to that point.
When the singleton snatched the toy and pronounced it his own, the previous posessor of said toy didn’t protest. In fact, all four kids starting bringing what they were playing with over and surrendering it to the guest. They piled him with everything they could get their hands on. Though they had no idea, they were modeling good relationship. They showed respect, they didn’t insist on having their own way, they even sacrificed for the sake of the other. And harmony ensued. Maybe even a little giggling once the “pile on the singleton” game developed. When we don’t insist things go in a certain way, when we show others kindness, maybe even sacrifice a bit for their sake, relationships can go much better, smoother, and richer. When our kids learn this early and practice if often, they’ll be much better equipped for all that is coming their way.
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