I’m doing a 30 day experiment based on a book The Kindness Challenge: Thirty Days to Improve Any Relationship by Shaunti Feldhahn, which is deceptively simple.
First, you select a “kindness target” — this can be your spouse, your kid, your co-worker, or a friend. Then, you agree to do these three things every day:
1. Say nothing negative/negatively about your person—either to them or about them to somebody else. (If you must provide honest, negative feedback to or about a colleague or child for vital reasons, be constructive, helpful and encouraging, without a negative tone. i.e. “Yes, the boss was in a bad mood today. The executive committee is probably on his case. Let’s stay focused, and deliver a great report next week.”)
2. Every day (or as often as possible), find one thing positive that you can sincerely praise or affirm about your person and tell them, and tell someone else. (i.e. Tell your mother-in-law, “Thanks for being willing to watch the kids last night while we were at that meeting,” and then tell your husband the same thing. Without bringing up that she let the kids stay up way too late again.)
3. Every day (or as often as possible), do one small act of kindness or generosity for your person.
Well, I began on January 16th and chose my 9 year old daughter Naomi, and so far this “challenge” has really been eye opening… especially the first item. Only when you make a promise not to be negative, do you actually realize how much of your interaction (perhaps with children?) is actually negative.
Additionally, I believe as parents we get into the habit of putting on a “fake nice” face when interacting with children, then complaining to your spouse later. There’s something about taking this out of the equation entirely that softens all approaches to the “kindness target.” I admit that I’ve failed a couple of times since we began, but I was able to catch myself and apologize quickly.
Just employing #1 has dramatically changed our daily interactions.
#2 is easy for me, because I guess I’m more naturally a “you-are-so-good-at-doing-this” type person. However, by telling another person something praise-worthy about Naomi adds a special element to it.
#3 is also pretty easy, though sometimes I have to think more strategically about what precisely I can do to “treat” her. Most of the time, I give in on something I otherwise would make her forego. My best moment was when we were car shopping for my 16 year old, probably not the most exciting task for a child. I spotted a McDonald’s across the road. While David took the older kids on a test drive, we walked to get ice cream cones.
The 30 Day Kindness Challenge is quite different than the “Random Acts of Kindness” movement that swept the nation a few years ago. While doing “random acts of kindness” is great, it tends to make you feel quite good about yourself and your capacity to bring a smile to the face of a stranger. What I like about this is that it shows how YOUR posture towards another person is not always what it should be — and how you can improve most relationships by simply changing yourself. That’s pretty powerful.
Anyway, if you’d like to do this with me, I’d love to hear from you.
Click HERE, to receive daily email updates from Shaunti that will give you ideas on how exactly to be kind. Some days are better than others, but hopefully this challenge can put you on the right path to a kinder you.