This was first published on KSL.COM
How can I teach my children to be kind? I have noticed a tendency to put down, gossip about, or find fault in others. I also have family members who love to judge others and do a lot of joking at others' expense. It's very upsetting to me. What can I do to encourage my family to be kinder?
First, I want you to understand that we all have a subconscious tendency to see people in a negative light, which is at the heart of our unkindness (and our low self-esteem). We do it to ourselves and others.
Without consciously realizing it, you automatically look for differences in everyone, and we are constantly trying to figure out where we fit and how we compare to others. This creates a subconscious tendency to focus on the bad in other people, because if you can find a reason to see them as worse than you, it makes you feel like the good guy, or better and safer (and you have less fear of failure). It doesn’t even matter what the criteria of comparison or division is; we latch onto anything that sets us apart. We look for any difference that makes us feel better, kinder, taller, richer, or more anything than the other people around us. We will even divide ourselves based on our preferences seeing Coke people as better than the Pepsi people, Mac people as smarter than PC people, or mayo people as better than Miracle Whip people. Then, we see these others, whether they cheer for the other college team or look different or act different from us, as the enemy. We also look for others, who are on our side, who validate our worth in their mutual hate for the enemy. Remember, we do this because if we can cast another group as the bad guys that makes us feel like the good guys. This fear-based tendency is the cause of most of the problems on the planet. Most of our wars, racism, prejudice, backbiting and bullying all come from our ego’s need to feel better than other people. This behavior is driven by a deep subconscious core fear of not being good enough that we all have to some degree. We create these divisions to give us a sense of self-worth and make us feel special. The problem is that though this behavior may make you feel better about yourself for a moment, it doesn't last. It doesn't produce real self-worth, and it is literally giving power to the idea that some people are better than others and you must prove your worth, which will create a lifetime of low self-esteem.
If you watch human nature enough you will see low-self esteem and judging and criticizing others always go hand in hand. They create each other, and the more you do one, the more you get the other.
The most important thing you must teach your children is that all human beings have the same intrinsic worth no matter what. We are all unique, divine, irreplaceable, infinitely valuable souls, fighting our way through the classroom of life, scared and struggling most of the time, doing the best we can with what we know. Because life is a classroom, not a test, our value isn't in question though. It is not on the line at all. Our value is infinite and absolute and does not change ever. You must teach your children to see every person on the planet as having the same intrinsic value they do. These people may be in very different classes and in a different place in their unique journey, but their value is the same. Teach your children (and adopt for yourself) this idea as a core belief and it will make your entire life better. You will have more compassion for others and better self-esteem. If you will work on establishing this idea as a core belief in your family and talk about it daily with your children, it will make a profound difference on their kindness. Also, watch for the tendency to compare and divide and use teaching moments to talk about truth and bring compassion to the situation. Here are a few other suggestions for teaching your children to see other people as the same as them:
You will do this even if it's not true. This is not lying, it is seeing the highest best in them before they are even demonstrating it. They have this goodness in their somewhere. This is about seeing the wonderful loving person they have a capacity to be and helping them to see it.
You should only have to say this once or twice and this person will not gossip or be unkind to others in your presence again. They may stop gossiping completely. This will work because people want to live up to our highest opinion of them. If you see them as a kind person, they will want to be that.
People are also more motivated to change themselves when you see good in them than they are when you point out their flaws or mistakes. This technique works with any kind of human behavior you want to change. Just sincerely compliment them in that area often, and you will project them with positivity in that direction.
You can do this!
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach and speaker.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.