Choosing To Be Nice at Home
When we talk about being kind and doing acts of kindness, it’s often in the context of reaching out to strangers. But what about those with whom we are closest?
It is understandable that we would focus so much on reaching out to those who are not in our immediate circles. We take it as a given people will be kind to those they know and love. What we're hoping to teach is how to reach out, break down barriers and expand our connections with those around us who aren't already family or friends. This is important because this is how communities are built and grow stronger. Hopefully, we will see and behave as if we are all a part of one big community that does better when everyone treats each other with respect.
But while we’re looking at what we can do these for strangers and others we don’t know well, we shouldn’t lose sight of those who are near us. Have you ever had that experience of snapping at your spouse and then turning around and talking sweetly to a stranger? Or how about saying thank you to the clerk who bagged the groceries but not the child who picks up the bag and carries it to the car? Or being upset that no one has done the dishes because everyone is busy?
Let’s face it, sometimes it’s easier to be kind to strangers than to those we love most. And sometimes, we take our frustrations out on those closest to us.
Perhaps it’s because we take our loved ones for granted. Maybe we know we can get angry with those close to us and they’ll stand by us. In a sense, we consider our loved ones as extensions of ourselves so we may not be as careful in how we treat them as we should be.
So, while we’re extending kindness and trying to be more mindful of our interactions, how about including the people in our own homes?
Here are some thoughts on how we can do that:
Be deliberate in finding time to talk with and listen to each other. We may be talking, but how much of that is “at” each other rather than “with.” You may be exchanging information, but are you truly connecting and sharing? Ask those in your house how their day is going and pay attention to the response.
When someone in the family is doing something that annoys you, be compassionate in dealing with it. You don’t have to put up with something just because it’s being done by someone you love, but be gentle in handling it. Let loved ones know why it bothers you and see what can be worked out.
Put yourself in the shoes of the other person. Spend some time doing things the way they do them to see what it’s like and to better understand why they do what they do. Getting that perspective can help you be more tolerant.
Do a count before you react. There is red permanent marker all over your white walls. Yes, you want to scream. But take a moment to decide how you want to respond. Rubbing alcohol will remove the marker, but the impact of losing your cool could last longer.
Do simple acts of kindness for your family. Buy someone a present for no reason. Leave a note in the lunch box. Do the chore no one else wants to do. These little acts are reminders to them and you about how much you love them.
Take time to have fun. Find things to do together and get away from the drudgery of making the house run. Let the dishes sit for a bit and play a game. Or, have everyone do the dishes and then go play a game. Be friends as much as family.
Say please and thank you even for the small things. It’s a moment to recognize that someone has done something even if it’s expected. It’s a way of appreciating those around us and letting them know that you notice and value them.
Say I love you and give hugs freely. Even if they know you love them, it’s important that they hear the words. It reinforces the emotions and reassures them of your feelings.