Be as nice as you possibly can about other people’s kids. And then go ahead and be even nicer.
See a child being polite? Tell his mom. Let her know that she has a great kid and that she must be doing something right.
See some really cool art in the halls of the elementary school? When you see the artist’s father at pickup, tell him how talented his kid is. Imagine how hearing that praise might brighten up someone’s entire day.
See the kid who melts down at soccer practice every week? Reassure his mom that he’ll play when he’s ready. Some kids are slow to warm, and her kid is awesome just as he is. Give her a high five and don’t make her feel like they’re failing at this.
See that mom with a newborn at the coffee shop? Stop to oooh and ahhh over her baby for a minute. Nothing makes a new parent’s day like having someone recognize that their kid is the best thing in the world.
See that little boy having a tantrum in the parking lot? Give his mom a nod to say that you’ve been there yourself.
See the little girl who’s being bossy to your kid on the playground? Don’t act annoyed with her. And give her dad a nod to say that you get it. Your kids act this way sometimes too.
See the rowdy kid, the awkward kid, the kid who gets services at school for behavior issues?
Well we all have our struggles, don’t we. Let his mom know he’s welcome over to play. That mom might worry that her kid doesn’t get invited to many play dates. So reach out and include him if you can.
Our kids are all a work in progress. And at home, in their safest spaces, our kids tend to show us their worst selves.
That can make us doubt how we’re doing as parents. It can make us wonder if our kids are going to turn out all right. And it can make us self-conscious about how our kids may appear to the outside world.
So when you notice someone else’s kid doing something well – showing good character, being kind, being funny – take a minute and point it out to their mom or dad. Sing their praises.
Or if you see a kid NOT being their best self in public? Let their parent know that you understand that, too.
The other day I stopped to talk to a dad whose son is in school with mine. He and his wife worry, he said, that their son is socially awkward. That he’ll have trouble making friends. And he was so happy to watch his son playing well with my son. He snapped a few photos of the kids, to show his wife.
And I told him, “You know, my kid really likes your kid. And it looks like he’s doing great over there. From what I’ve heard, you’ve got a nice little boy.”
Simple as that.
The dad was so happy to hear this, he couldn’t wait to tell his wife.
Just like my husband couldn’t wait to tell me about the report our kid’s after school program sent home saying what a sweet-natured boy we have.
Just like when I told my friend that her daughter is really popular with the other kids not only because she’s COOL but because she’s also KIND. My friend said she needed to hear that. Turns out her girl was having a rough week at home, and it helped to know that with the other kids, her daughter was showing up as her best self.
All kids are the best version of themselves. And then they’re….not.
So try to give another parent a glimpse of their child as that “best self” that they may have trouble seeing right now. That best self may not be showing up at home, so let other parents know that it’s still there.
That’s a gift we can give to each other. It takes SO LITTLE to build another child and parent up.
We can be in this together.
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