Tag Archive for kindness

Toddlers Prefer What Kind of People?

Two people bump into one another on a narrow street while going in opposite directions. After some interaction, one bows down and moves aside to let the other go on his way. Which one does a toddler like best: the one who bows and steps aside or the one who got his way?

In another instance, two people bump into one another on a narrow street while going in opposite directions. After some interaction, one pushes the other one down and goes on his way. Which one does the toddler like best: the one who uses violence to get his way or the one who was pushed?

In a final scenario, a person is trying to accomplish a goal. One person steps in to help him achieve his goal. A different person steps in to impede him from reaching his goal. Which one does the toddler like best: the one who helps or the one who impedes?  

Researchers have used puppets to explore all three of these scenarios with toddlers.  In the first scenario the toddlers liked the one who got his way rather than the one who bowed and moved aside. However, in the second scenario they did not like the one who got his way through violence and force (read Toddlers prefer winners, but avoid those who win by force for more). In the final scenario, they liked the one who helped the other achieve his goal (Check out Can Babies Tell Right From Wrong on YouTube for more).

Isn’t that interesting? Even toddlers show a preference for certain types of people. Specifically, they like those who win in conflict due to social status without the use of force or violence. And, they like those who help others. They do not like those who are mean or violent. Seems obvious, but think about what this means for parents and families? I think it encourages us to do at least three things for the benefit of our children. 

  • Model kindness in your own life. Be kind to one another within the family and be kind to those outside the family. Not only will this model good values, it will nurture your children’s admiration of, and respect for, you as a parent as well. This, in turn, will increase their willingness to listen, live by family values, and cooperate when family disagreements arise.
  • Accept respect and kindness from others. Let your children see you graciously accept positions of status or prestige while remaining humble. Knowing that you hold a position of some respect can nurture your children’s sense of security…but this is only true if you accept that respect graciously. And, we all hold a position of prestige and respect as a parent. Accept that honor and respect from your children with grace and humility.
  • Do not respond violently toward others. This not only includes physical violence but verbal and relational violence as well. We can become violent in our words, our tone of voice, or our volume just as much as we can through physical stature and actions. We can also show violence in our attitude toward others,  by demeaning another person’s character or undermining another person’s authority in a given situation. Each of these represents violence. Seeing this violence in their parents can reduce children’s respect for, and trust in, them.  Children do not like to be around people who can become mean and violent. It’s scary, frightening. Do not become violent toward your spouse (in how you disagree, talk about them, or talk to them), toward your children (in your discipline, in your words to them, or your descriptions of them), or toward anyone outside the family. Instead, show kindness.

Model kindness. Graciously and humbly accept respect and kindness from others. Do not be mean; do not respond to others with violence of any kind. As you engage in these three practices, you will nurture your relationship with your children and encourage them to grow in kindness and grace. Who could ask for more?

Teach Your Family the “Hidden” Message of Christmas

Most of us know the Christmas story. Baby Jesus was born of the virgin Mary and placed in a manger because there was no room in the inn. That’s the story; but, hidden in plain sight for all who look more closely, is a deeper message for Christmas…a message not just about “baby Jesus” but about Immanuel.  Immanuel is my favorite Christmas word. It means “God with us.”  I love the truth of Immanuel. Jesus “emptied Himself,” became a man, and dwelt among us. He literally became “God with us” to bring peace between God and man as well as peace among men who truly hear His message.


The message of Immanuel has gotten lost today. We live in a divided world.  Divisions grow stronger as interest groups rally for their personal wants and needs, erecting walls between “us” and any who might disagree with “us.”  Conflict increases as we sequester with like-minded people behind walls of demands for “my” space, “my” needs, and “my” desires.  At the same time, we hide in fear from the travesty of disagreements that might call “my” belief into question. Fear, conflict, and division give rise to battles about “mine” and “theirs” and between “me” and “them.”  In the midst of the growing division, isolation, and conflict God speaks the message of Immanuel, “God with us.” “God with us” breaks down the barriers and puts an end to isolation. He walks with us, talks with us, eats with us, laughs with us, cries with us…He is “God with us.” He breaks through the fears and speaks the message of peace through Immanuel, “God with us.” “God with us” bring “peace among men with whom He is pleased.”  Yes, our barrier-filled world needs to hear the message of Immanuel.

The message of Immanuel, “God with us,” was first spoken through a Baby. Who doesn’t love a baby? Who doesn’t feel a sense of joy and peace in the presence of a baby? Who doesn’t want to come alongside a baby and connect with a baby? Yes, Immanuel spoke His first message of “God with us” as a Baby, a Baby born into an occupied country to poor parents. “God with us,” a baby born to a woman who experienced the pain of being cast out because she appeared to have engaged in activities outside the accepted behaviors of her culture. “God with us,” a Baby worshipped by poor people like shepherds and wealthy people like the “magi from the east.” “God with us,” a Baby who had to flee with His family to escape political persecution and death. “God with us.” Yes, Christmas celebrates “God with us,” all of us. Like us, “God with us” experienced the joys of family and friends. He experienced the pain of persecution and disenfranchisement. He knew the struggles of poverty and the riches of faith. He touched the lives of people in every circle. He is Immanuel, “God with us,” walking with all people…in every walk of life. As our families learn the message of Immanuel, as we come to understand the message of “God with us,” perhaps we will learn to walk with those Immanuel chose to walk with–the outcasts and the accepted ones, the poor and the rich, the joyous and the sorrowful, those in our homes and those outside our homes–for we are representatives of Immanuel. Will you join me in living the message of Immanuel this year?

The Impact of Discrimination on Teens

A rather disturbing study came out of the University of Southern California recently. The study followed 2,572 11th grade students from 10 public high schools in L.A. County for a year (2016-2017). These students were male and female: 47% Latino, 19% Asian, 4% African American, and 17% Caucasian. The study followed these students to explore the impact that public displays of discrimination (those seen in their neighborhoods as well as those seen on TV) had on teens. At the start of the study, 26.7% of the teens were “very or extremely worried about societal discrimination.” At the end of the year, 34.7% of the students were “very or extremely worried about societal discrimination.” That’s disturbing…but it gets worse. The researchers also found “significant associations between increased level of concern about discrimination and six different adverse behavioral outcomes.” More specifically, “increasing societal discrimination was associated with higher frequency of substance use, greater number of different substances used, and 11% higher odds of depression and 12% greater odds of ADHD symptoms.”  I find this even more disturbing when I watch the news and see the number of acts of discrimination reported. Somehow, we need to create a change for the sake of our most vulnerable children. That change can begin right in your family with these four tips.

  1. Build strong, intimate family relationships. Those strong family relationships become the model of relationship outside the home. In fact, studies have shown that a strong attachment leads to people acting less on their prejudices and showing greater kindness even to their enemies (You can read about it in one of my favorite studies pitting Hot Sauce Vs. the Power of Relationship).
  2. Don’t be afraid to talk about the acts of discrimination you or your children witness. As Mr. Rogers said, “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we’re not alone.” Don’t limit the talk to those who show discrimination. Teach your whole family to look for those who battle the discrimination. If I may quote Mr. Rogers again, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Those are the people we want our children to emulate. Those are the heroes. Those are the ones who help us live courageously with the knowledge that, even in discrimination rears its ugly head, there are many who do not discriminate. There are many who share love, kindness, and hope.
  3. Find like-minded people, people who do not discriminate. Associate with people who love and share kindness with all people. In so doing, your children meet people from all walks of life and find human kindness resides in every corner of the world regardless of wealth, ethnicity, or gender.
  4. Build kindness into the fabric of your family. Start by being kind to one another (learn The Mighty Power of Kindness for Families in this short blog). Teach your children the joys of sharing kindness with others and the joy of humbly receiving kindness from others. Remember, “we live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes” (Sorry, Mr. Rogers again). Teach your children to be the heroes. That can be as simple as visiting a nursing home or taking food to a friend who is grieving. (A Family Night to Share Kindness is a good place to start.)

Like I said, the study from USC disturbed me but then I started thinking of the study I’d like to see completed. In this study families would be strengthened. They would be coached to talk about their feelings and identify the helpers. They would be given opportunities to build bridges across our superficial differences and engage in family acts of kindness. Then, after a year, the study would measure their level of discrimination and their fear of discrimination. Would their fear go down? Would acting out behaviors go down? I dare say they would. Hey, why not run the experiment in your own home? You might be pleasantly surprised.

My Intelligence Went Adrift in the Sea of Her Eyes

A couple years ago, during my daughter’s sophomore year in college, we went to a high school football game together. She saw a young college age man wearing a sweatshirt from the college she attended. Excited to meet someone who attended the same college as her, she walked up to him and said, “Hey, I go to that college too!” The young man smiled, eyes wide.  She said, “What’s your major?” His arms began to move in motions indicative of speech and he opened his mouth as though to speak, but the words did not flow. After a very brief moment, sounds began to emanate from his moving lips as he stuttered, “Huh…well…I…huh…oh man,” his hand landed on the top of his head, “I can’t remember my major!” He looked hopelessly to his friend and then said, “I gotta go.”  I just smiled.  He did return later and had a more intelligible conversation with my daughter. He was a nice young man…very intelligent actually. He just “got lost in her eyes.” When she “ambushed him” that way his intelligence went adrift in her eyes.

Watching this brief interaction brought two things to my mind. One, I recalled the scene from Inside Out. You can check it out here. Two, it reminded me of a study completed in 2009 in which people interacted with attractive members of the opposite sex before completing cognitive tests (What Sexy People Do To Your Intelligence). Both males and females performed worse on the cognitive tests in the presence of an attractive member of the opposite sex. But males exhibited a stronger drop in ability than women. Why? The authors of the study believed that it had to do with “impression management.” It seems that trying to make a positive impression on another person sucks up enough brain power that our cognitive skills, our intelligence, is weakened. (That must be why I can’t speak intelligently when my wife walks into the room…oh, come one guys…give me a break. I’m trying to earn some brownie points here if my wife happens to read my blog!) My daughter knows about these studies since I talk about them (she would say I talk about them too much). She had compassion for the guy. She was patient and didn’t make a deal out of it.  In other words, she treated him with respect and honor. Teaching our children to respond to others with respect and honor is an important part of equipping them for the world…and making the world a better place. Let’s teach our children these values early.  Let’s give the values of honor and respect a central place in our families and in our training of children. We can still enjoy the intelligence that goes adrift in the sea of beautiful eyes, but we can also admire the compassion, patience, honor, and respect we witness in return.

Fruits of a Healthy Marriage

Healthy marriages flow from healthy individuals who continue to learn and grow. Sure, each person will make mistakes. But, in the long run, each spouse in a healthy marriage grows and reveals these healthy fruits in their lives. As a result, their marriages flourish. Here are some fruits that nurture a healthy marriage along with some practical ways to enjoy that fruit

  • Love. Love is an action. It seeks the best for one’s spouse. It maintains a long-term view of the marriage. So, plan a vacation, a 5-year anniversary, an extra big trip for next year. Spend this year planning a special romantic getaway

    for next year. Take time to prepare for it, save for it, and work for it together to make it happen. Love also thinks the best of one’s spouse. So, find a way to compliment your spouse every day. Show your spouse appreciation daily. Tell them how much you admire them for all they do. (If you want to apply this to your whole family, try the 30-Day Family Happiness Challenge!)

  • Joy. Healthy marriages share joy. Each spouse shares joyful experiences from their days. Joyful marriages are filled with play. So, play together, laugh together, and share adventures together. Enjoy a card game or a baseball game together. Celebrate an achievement, a milestone, or just the day for no other reason than you enjoy your spouse. Tell a joke. Share your joys.
  • Peace. In a healthy marriage each spouse pursues peace, not drama. Mole hills remain mole hills and mountains are excavated to become gentle slopes or terraced hillsides filled with lookouts over awesome vistas. Healthy couples learn to use conflict for grow and so promote peace. (Read The Secret to Family Peace and apply the principles to your marriage.)
  • Patience. Those who enjoy a healthy marriage practice patience. Each spouse puts his or her agenda aside and patiently listen to understand their spouse. They are patient with misunderstandings, disagreements, and mistakes. They listen intently and fully. Patience doesn’t mean letting everything slide. It does mean trusting your spouse’s love for you and patiently engaging them to create change.
  • Kindness. Who doesn’t want a kind spouse? A spouse who serves in kindness and speaks words of kindness nurtures a healthy marriage. So, serve your spouse. Speak words of kindness, respect, and gratitude to your spouse.
  • Sincerity. Healthy marriages put aside sarcasm and left-handed compliments. Instead, offer sincere compliments, honest encouragement, and beneficial words.
  • Faithfulness. Healthy marriages focus on truth. They do not hide things from one another. They do not lie to one another. Be truthful and honest. Keep your promises. If you promise to do something, do it as soon as you can. Faithful marriages have an eye on the long-term investment of their relationship. They know they will be together in the future and they work for that end.
  • Gentleness. People in healthy marriages tend to be humble. They do not take themselves too seriously. They are humble enough to serve one another. Rather than expect their spouse to bring them a drink, they offer to bring their spouse a drink. Rather than ask “What have you done for me lately?” they ask, “What can I do for you today?” (Check out Today’s Family Question is… for more.)
  • Self-control. Spouses who enjoy a healthy marriage practice self-control. They soothe themselves during arguments or disagreements. They are not easily angered and when they become angry they manage that anger. In addition, they practice self-control when they “only have eyes for” their spouse, no one else!

We could talk about each of these traits more, but I think you get the idea…and a few practical ideas on how to put these traits into practice. Now get out there and grow the fruits of a healthy marriage.

Are Gentlemen an Endangered Species?

I work with several young, single women who are convinced that good men are an endangered species. As we discuss their belief I realize they are speaking of “gentlemen.”  I offer them an old definition (1869) of “gentlemen:”

“always truthful and sincere; will not agree for the sake of complaisance or out of weakness; will not pass over that of which he disapproves. He has a clear soul, and a fearless, straight forward tongue. On the other hand, he is not blunt and rude. His truth is courteous, his courtesy, truthful; never a humbug, yet, where he truthfully can, he prefers to say pleasant things.”

Yep, that’s the guy. They believe he is an endangered species if not already extinct.  They support their argument with the fact that I offered a definition from 1869! So, we discuss a more modern definition, one from the Urban Dictionary:

“the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.”

I like that definition better than the old one but, alas…they still insist this man is possibly extinct.  I will not accept such pessimism. I am sure “gentlemen” exist today. The news may highlight those who are not “gentlemen” and sitcoms laugh at men who are not “gentlemen” but I believe “gentlemen” still exist…and in rather large numbers. I’ve seen them and met them on multiple occasions, more numerous than I can count. With that in mind, I think it is time for all true “gentlemen” to make themselves known to the people around them. Of course, this can only be done in the true manner of a “gentlemen” so let me suggest a few methods for making your status as a “gentleman” known.

  • Build a reputation of integrity. Speak the truth but do so politely with kindness. Let your word be your word. Be on time. Keep your promises. Communicate your commitments and your intents clearly. Then let your actions prove your words. Never lead anyone on.
  • Practice chivalry. Hold the door open for others. Offer to get the car rather than assuming the women and others in your life will run through the rain. Be courteous to all. Stand boldly for what is right. Advocate for the vulnerable and underprivileged. Seek justice for all. Never criticize or insult; compliment and encourage instead.
  • Be courteous. Stand when a woman enters a crowded room and offer her your seat if none is available. Never criticize a homemade meal or a gift but show gratitude instead. Walk beside your spouse rather than ahead of her. Offer her the support of your arm on precarious terrain…and the strength of your character in difficult times of life.
  • Listen intently because you know the value of the person speaking and want to know them more intimately. Etiquette tells us that “to be a good listener is indispensable” to be a “gentleman.”
  • Promote other people’s dreams and goals, especially those of your spouse and children. Gentlemen serves others graciously, not only in daily life but in their pursuit of dreams.

I do believe “gentlemen” still exist. In fact, I know they do! I know you are out there. Join me in making the presence of “gentlemen” known in our families and our world today. And let us teach our sons to do the same.

Has This Contagion Infected Your Home?

A contagion may have infected your home. It spreads faster than the flu and the common cold put together. Wearing a mask, washing your hands, and getting vaccines remain ineffective against it. This contagion can spread through your family causing misery, pain, and heartache at a speed that’s nothing to sneeze at. Researchers at the University of Florida (_______ Spreads Like a Disease) identified this contagion in a series of three studies.

  • In one study this contagion was caught after being in close proximity to someone who exhibited the symptoms. Once infected, the infected person’s thought life was impacted with the negative associates that led to ill-mannered and impolite behaviors.
  • In a second study, simply witnessing the symptoms of this contagion led to actual infection! The infected person began to interpret other people’s behaviors in a negative light and then respond to people based on those misinterpretations. Uncivilized and insolent behaviors increased as did harsh words and snide, cynical comments.
  • In a third study those interacting with the carrier became infected and, once infected, willingly sought revenge by withholding resources from the original carrier. Even more disturbing, the infected were capable of infecting others for up to a week after a single contact with the disease!

You can understand my concern. A contagion caught by simply witnessing the symptoms, lasts a full week, and effects how we think and act toward others is terrible. It’s practically a mini-zombie virus.

What exactly is this contagion? Rudeness. Rudeness has become epidemic. Twitter feuds, Facebook rants, and on-line opinion broadcasting are all symptomatic of a rudeness contagion spreading faster than the flu. Worse yet, rude behavior has found its way into our homes and our family relationships. Children are rude to parents and parents to children. Spouses spout off with rudeness toward one another. All the while, the epidemic spreads…and worsens…and destroys family relationships. But, there is a cure! We can stop this epidemic before it spreads any further. And you can insulate yourself from its insidious effects with the same intervention. That intervention comes in four parts.

  1. Be polite to one another. Say “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” Hold a door open for someone else. Think about your spouse and children first. Show them consideration.
  2. Engage in daily acts of kindness. As well as showing one another politeness, be kind. Do a chore for another family member. Offer to help. Let your spouse or child choose the activity. Bring home a special treat. Show a little kindness every day.
  3. It seems simple, but a smile can change the world. Smiling helps reduce stress (Smile for a Happier Family). It puts other people at ease. Smile.
  4. Make eye contact. A study from the University of Haifa showed that simply maintaining eye contact reduced mean behavior and rudeness (Eye Contact Quells Online Hostility). Look at the one another, especially when you speak.

The cure sounds so simple…but powerful. I’m starting right now. Will you join me?

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree…Or Does It?

We hear certain folk truths all the time. Three folk truths I hear for parenting are: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” “Like father, like son,” and “He’s a chip off the old block.”  But a recent study published in the British Journal of Psychology (Read How Far Does the Apple Fall From the Tree for a review of the study) reveals the actual truth is more nuanced than folk wisdom suggests. In this study, researchers looked up 418 German and Swiss families to see “which parents most strongly transmitted their values to their children.” They discovered that parents who encourage AND live out prosocial values like helping, supporting and caring for others, and kindness passed on their values more effectively than those who promoted values like power, position-seeking, and achievement.  Interestingly, children also adopted positive traits unrelated to kindness, like curiosity and respect for tradition, from parents who promoted caring values. The authors of the study believe parents who focus on prosocial values also exhibit greater sensitivity and caring toward their children; they “practice what they preach” so to speak. This creates a stronger bond and a stronger bond contributes to children adopting their parents’ values. In other words, children are more likely to replicate the values of an empathetic, supportive parent than one who pushes for achievement and position. Interesting, isn’t it? Adds a whole new dimension to our efforts to raise kind children while pushing them to be “number one,” undefeated, the best in the class… it just might not work.

How does this change the folk wisdom mentioned above? Perhaps we need to rewrite the saying. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree of caring, supportive families…but for the harsh, power-driven parent it may roll down the hill into who knows what.” Not quite as quick and snappy…but it does express a more complete truth.

Raise Kinder Children

Want to raise kinder children? Me, too! A recent study (Reading May Make Us Kinder, Students Research Into Fiction Habits and Personality Types Reveals) conducted by a post-graduate student at Kingston University suggests a simple way to do it! The study asked 123 adults their preference: reading fiction or watching TV. The same adults were tested on their interpersonal skills like considering other people’s feelings and their desire to help others. Those who preferred reading fictional stories showed greater empathy, greater consideration of other people’s needs, and a greater desire to help other people than those who preferred TV.  In fact, those who preferred TV came across as less friendly and less tolerant of other people’s viewpoints. The author of the study suggests reading makes people think more deeply about characters and, as a result, develop empathic skills and kindness.

Here’s the take home message of this study for all parents. If you want to raise kinder children, children who show empathy and consideration in their desire to help others, chuck the remote and read some books. Turn off the TV and read. Read TO your child…read WITH your child…EVERYDAY.  Go to the library, find books that interest your child, and read. You can take turns reading out loud to one another. Or, you can both read the same book and discuss what you’ve read.  Whatever you choose, JUST READ.  Did you catch the take home message for raising kinder children? Encourage your children to read.

A 30-Day Family Happiness Challenge

We all want happy families. In fact, I’m implementing a 30-day family happiness challenge in my home and I’d like to invite you to join along. It really isn’t all that hard. But, it will demand doing certain things every day for 30 days. So, set the reminder on your phone, write them on a post-it and stick it on your mirror…whatever it takes to make sure you

remember each action each day.  Here they are.

  • Give your spouse and each child 3 hugs every day for 30 days. That’s one hug when you leave the house, one hug before bed, and one hug sometime in between. (Learn more in Becoming a Master Hugger.)
  • Give your spouse and each child one genuine compliment every day for 30 days. Tell them a character trait you appreciate or something you admire about them.
  • Tell your spouse and each child “thank you” for something they did every day for 30 days. This is different than the compliment. The compliment will acknowledge some character trait you admire. The “thank you” will acknowledge something they just did in the moment that day. You can say “thank you” for something as simple as passing the salt or as involved as painting the house. Whether it’s something you expect them to do all the time or a surprise, offer thanks. (Read the amazing benefits of gratitude in 7 Ways Gratitude Benefits Your Family According to Research and Why Thank Your Spouse for Doing Chores?)
  • Tell your spouse and each child “I love you” every day for 30 days. I would suggest doing this in the morning and in the evening before bed, but you can pick any time you like. Just make sure to tell each one every day.
  • Do one thing for your spouse and each child every day for 30 days. That’s right, do one thing for each person. It doesn’t have to be big, just do something for them. They do not even have to notice it, just do something for them. Unload the dishwasher, sweep the floor, get gas in the car, help set the table, watch a movie together, patiently help with homework, get a treat…you get the idea. Do one thing for your spouse and each child every day.
  • Eat one meal together every day for 30 days. During the meals enjoy conversation. Avoid lectures and “touchy subjects.” Just talk about the day. Tell some jokes. You might even give your compliment, “thank you,” or “I love you” during the meal. (Have Fun, Eat, &…What? will show a surprising benefit of eating as a family.)

None of these activities are especially hard; but, you will find they have an amazing impact on your family. Don’t believe me? Take up the challenge. Do each one for the next 30 days…it may make a believer out of you! Either way, I’d love to know what happens so leave a note in the message below.

« Older Entries