A little while ago I wrote an article called “Practice Random Acts of Kindness Be Buggered!” where I argued that making a conscious choice to be Kind to each other would see an increase in positive emotional/mental health. To quote from that:
“If Kindness…and yes I intentionally give it a capital to indicate its importance…if Kindness would become, not a random act, but a constant goal for each of us as we interact in our communities, so much of that which leads people to antidepressants, suicide, addictions and anxieties would simply not occur.”
And I have to say that when it comes to our teenagers we seem to lack kindness almost constantly. Let me give some observations just in my local community of late. A community with a horrendous youth suicide rate of late.
I took my fourteen year old to the dentist the other morning. Now I’m not sure what was wrong with Ms Dentist but she was hostile from get go. Though she charged me for educating him regarding his “disgusting teeth brushing” what she actually did was several minutes of sarcastic, angry criticism.
“Why was she so bloody angry at me mum?”
Now don’t get me wrong, I ain’t precious and my boy gets told bluntly when he’s acting the jerk. But this woman spoke to him in a tone of contemptuous condensation and did little better in her interaction with me.
But she did do better. Her professionalism or perhaps hip pocket stopped her from talking to the adult that way.
And though I get that dentists get riled, or perhaps she had a nasty fight with her beloved. But instead of venting all this on a teen, what if she commitment to Kindness in her actions? This would have led to my son feeling slightly ashamed but inspired to care for his teeth.
Instead he was grumpy and commented on yet another jerky adult. It took him ages to be able to discuss his teeth without her hostility getting in the way.
A Father, cranky that son was refusing some small request of him, shoves him into the wall in front of other teens and yells at him about getting “too big for his boots”.
A Mothers boyfriend chaperoning a fifteenth birthday party yelling at the kids to “shut-the f—k-up” with no previous ‘please quiet down guys”.
A mother calling her twelve year old daughter ‘a f—ing idiot’ for wagging school in amongst her other screaming insults.
And just in case you think me judgemental I assure you I am not. These are purely observations witnessed only over the last four weeks. And I am not condemning these individuals. But…
Though I try to avoid the word ‘should’ this should not be taken lightly.
We like to come up with many excuses for the way we communicate with teens; tiredness, frustration, how tiresome they are and so on.
None really stack up when you consider our statistics in youth suicide and depression hence alcohol and drug addiction.
Each teen, in each of the previous examples, left the situation angry and the latter three hurt.
None thought to care for their teeth, or be more respectful to their dad, or consider the issues around wagging school and none considered the impact of their noise on sleeping folk.
Surely that is not the outcome any of these adults wanted.
Yet that’s what they created with their hostility and rudeness. More hostility and rudeness.
No surprise really. Yet we complain about teenagers being hostile and rude!
This behaviour is constant in our community and a large contributor to teens feeling right royally pissed of.
And being right royally pissed off when you are a teen is extremely unhealthy emotionally/mentally due to the hormone surges and lack of experience in handling thoughts that come with those surges.
Imagine setting out each day to be Kind in our interactions no matter the many temptations to be otherwise.
Imagine teens being educated both through school but more powerfully by the community at large to acting and communicating kindly. Imagine.
And a reminder of what Kindness is:
“Caring about others; gentle, friendly and generous.” (Oxford, 6th Edition, 2000)
It is not lying. It is not being stepped on. It is not pretentious. It is not namby-pamby.
But it is emotionally mature (something we can’t expect of out teens) and it is a powerful tool in assuring communication has positive outcomes for all involved.
Kindness feels good…we seek it out. Aggression, rudeness feels bad…we avoid it. Simple really.