If you want to change patterns of behaviour and ultimately achieve perpetual health, I don’t believe there is anything more important than the ‘kindness balance’.
This is the balance and use of ‘kindness’ and ‘firmness’ in the appropriate moments. I’m going to give an example of how we might approach the balance with a child.
Every week, my 6 year old is given spellings to learn by his teacher. Most mornings, we practise them together. Some mornings he wakes up and really doesn’t want to do it, but I am FIRM.
I explain that some things in life are not negotiable, and regardless of how we feel, we have to do them.
Some mornings, I leave for work before he rises, and I let him know the evening before that he needs to do them in the morning without me.
In the evening, i’ll ask him if he practised them. I can tell by his bright smile or shifting eyes and feet if he did or did not.
Whether he did or he didn’t, I am KIND.
The ‘mistake’ has happened. We talk about how much better he might have felt if he could have made me proud by saying yes, and then we move on. He ALWAYS does it the next time. (would he if I had been firm?)
On the Friday of each week they are tested – sometimes he gets the outcome he wanted, and sometimes he doesn’t.
If he doesn’t get the outcome he was hoping for, I am KIND. I definitely don’t suggest it’s not worth practising the spellings because he didn’t get a ‘perfect’ score – instead I talk about all of the other benefits of regular focus, discipline and engagement in tasks.
The opposite approach
Let’s now imagine if we approached learning spellings with the same ‘Kindness and Firmness’ balance many of us adopt with health and weight management.
In the mornings, whenever my son didn’t want to do the spellings I would be KIND. (or so it would seem at the time).
I would say, “Don’t worry we can do it tomorrow”. He would come to learn that motivation is the driving factor in tackling tasks, rather than discipline.
When he didn’t independently do the work in my absence, I would be FIRM and make him feel bad for not doing what I expected – thus building a feeling in him of being a failure. Not good!
When the results were not as expected, I would be firm, saying he needs to work harder, again creating a feeling of failure and loss of confidence.
It’s fairly obvious which of these approaches is going to get a better long term outcome.
We can’t become successful with our health with only kindness, nor can we be successful with only firmness – each has it’s place in our journey – it’s crucial that we adopt an effective balance….
My view on the kindness/firmness balance is simple.
Be FIRM BEFORE the behaviour.
Be KIND AFTER the behaviour/outcome.
When you are faced with a decision (workout, food choice etc) be FIRM.
When you are faced with a mistake and or outcome that isn’t as expected, be KIND.
Hopefully that all makes some sense?