In fifth grade, a “friend” asked me to help pass out her birthday invitations at recess. I was excited to help, that was until I handed out the last invitation and realized there wasn’t one for me. To say I was crushed would be an understatement.
I went home sobbing to my mom and was surprised when she told me to get my coat because we were going shopping to get the “friend” a birthday present. She wrapped it beautifully with a huge bow and made me bring it to school to give to the birthday girl.
I awkwardly gave the present to the girl who carelessly stuffed it in her backpack. On the day of the party my mom planned a girls day where we went shopping and to a movie. I didn’t know it then, but my mom was teaching me an important lesson – to always be the bigger person and rise above. Like Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.”
Just because someone treats you poorly, doesn’t mean you need to stoop to their level. In fact, it’s a perfect opportunity to turn it around and show them how people should act. Sadly, nastiness doesn’t stop in grade school. You’ve all seen in the workplace. You’ve all seen it with both kids and adults while watching sports, dance, gymnastics, etc. Heck, you’ve surely seen it trying to navigate stores and parking lots during the holidays.
A recent blog post on Today’s Parent caught my attention. It was called Tales of a Fifth Grade Nothing and was written by a Christine Burke. Check out her blog Keeper of the Fruit Loops. She is an incredible writer and hilarious. I promise you’ll enjoy reading her blog!
Christine’s blog is what sparked my fifth grade memory. I posted a comment about it on the Today Parents Facebook post featuring the blog and shared my experience.
My comment on the Today Family Facebook post:
“…I didn’t understand it at the time, but my mom insisted we get her a very nice present anyway and that I bring it to school to give her…my mom taught me that it’s always better to be the bigger person and do the right thing. I now have two small daughters and you better believe I teach them compassion, empathy and to treat everyone with respect.”
Another reader responded to my post and said my daughters and I would end up being doormats. I assume she was referring to the part about being the bigger person and teaching my daughters compassion and empathy.
Being kind and respectful does not make you a doormat. You can lead with kindness, but still be strong and confident. Compassion doesn’t equal weakness and strength does not need to equal nastiness. There is a balance.
When I was immersed in the corporate world, there were numerous times I encountered people (both women and men) who treated their colleagues with complete disrespect. I also had the honor to work with people who were inspirational leaders, but never tore anyone else down or spoke rudely to anyone. Instead, they were strong, honest and supportive. Want to guess which type of leader I was loyal to and would go above and beyond to help?
If you mistake kindness for weakness, that says more about you than anything else.
As parents, it’s our responsibility to raise children who are kind, confident and strong…with a little humor thrown in for good measure. This is definitely not an easy task and involves a lot of trial an error. No one is perfect and much like us, our kids will mess up. However, it’s how we handle those blips that help teach the best lessons.
I am extremely proud that at ages four and seven, my girls speak their minds, but are also empathetic to others. I burst with pride when someone compliments my children on their manners or when teachers tell me my kid helped a classmate or comforted another child. I also appreciate when teachers or others alert me when my kids aren’t acting how they should. You better believe the situation is addressed immediately.
Not going to lie, I also like how they sometimes don’t have a filter and say things out loud that I wish I could. For instance, we were recently walking out of a large department store and the young man in front of us let the heavy door slam in our faces. He absolutely saw us behind him and was just inconsiderate. I struggled to rebalance my bags and grab the door in the wind before is smacked either of the girls.
When we got outside, my four-year-old loudly said, “Why did that man let the door close on us?” And my seven-year-old chimed in with, “Because he doesn’t have any manners and is rude.”
The young man spun around and glared at us. My girls have VERY LOUD voices, so quite a few other shoppers turned around too…most with grins on their faces. Gotta love the honesty of kids.
*No matter what the situation or time of year – kindness is always in fashion.