We all desire for our kids to be kind. We want them to know what respect is and understand how to genuinely treat others with that respect. And that can be a tough thing to teach our kids, especially when we look at society today and see all the bullying and disrespect in the world. Fostering kindness starts in the home, between parents and among siblings. Once that kindness is established, kids will step outside of their little bubbles and respect others with a greater understanding of what it means. They can grow in kindness towards their friends, as well as those they have differences with. And it is such a beautiful thing to watch them grow in! It’s like planting a seed and then it grows.
Kristin, Kendra, and Julie are the founders of The Ruth Experience, which is all about living out authentic faith, fostering positive community, intentional living, and also living really generously. They teach women how to be kind to others and how they can teach their kids to be kind. It’s not really about the acts of kindness or even what it’s doing for the other person that you’re affecting. It’s that it’s changing your mindset to get into the habit of just always having that “giving” state of mind that will become apart of your kids lives too!
In This Episode, Allie, Kristin, Kendra, and Julie Discuss:
The importance of teaching your kids the heart behind kindness, especially as they face others who may not be as kind.
How to teach your kids respectful boundaries between being kind and being a “doormat.”
Their approach to helping kids learn how to approach bullying with kindness.
Ways you can help foster kindness between all of your kids, as siblings.
Mentioned in this Episode:
The Ruth Experience Facebook
The Ruth Experience Instagram
One Year Daily Acts of Kindness Devotional by The Ruth Experience
Resources from The Ruth Experience
Allie’s 3 Weeks To Minimalist Motherhood
Mom life. We are surrounded with the message that it’s the tired life. The no-time-for-myself life. The hard life. And while it is hard and full of lots of servitude, the idea that motherhood means a joyless life is something I am passionate about putting a stop to. I’m on a mission to help you stop counting down the minutes till bedtime, at least most days. I want you to stop cleaning up after your kid’s childhood and start being present for it. Start enjoying it. I believe in John 10:10 “that we are called to abundant life” and I know mothers are not excluded from that promise. Join me in conversations about simplicity, minimalism and lots of other good stuff that leads to a life of less for the sake of enjoying more in your motherhood. I’m Allie Casazza and this is The Purpose Show.
Welcome friends to another episode of The Purpose Show!
Today I am sitting down with Kristin, Kendra, and Julie of The Ruth Experience, and my conversation with them was really special. These women are just gems. We do video when I record guest episodes just because I think it builds a stronger connection between myself and my guests and their faces are just glowing. They’re such sweet women.
They’re so happy. Their joy and their generosity really just beams on their faces from within. Truly, they are just a few of the best women I’ve come to meet.
The Ruth Experience is about living out authentic faith, fostering positive community, intentional living, and also living really generously. They teach women how to be kind to others and how to help us teach our kids to be kind.
If you follow me on Instagram, and you’ve been there for a little while, you might remember a few months ago before I recorded this episode that I asked you guys what you wanted to know about teaching your kids kindness. You guys responded with a flood of helpful questions about fostering kindness between siblings, what to do about bullies at school, how to teach your kids to be kind to their friends despite differences. All kinds of great stuff. And I loved the questions so much, I was excited to hear the answers to them. So, this is my episode with The Ruth Experience. Sit down with a cup of coffee. This is going to be really good. You’re really going to enjoy this.
ALLIE: Hey, beautiful mamas! Welcome to another episode of The Purpose Show!
I am sitting here with the women from The Ruth Experience. We have Kristin, Kendra and Julie. Hi ladies! Thank you, guys, for being here. I’m hoping we can make this work really well even though there’s four of us. I know when I had the podcast with Kelsey and we would do like an interview with another twosome, it was always just a lot of people talking, but I think it’s great because there’s so many different minds here and so many experiences here. So, these interviews are always just so great and I am really thankful for you guys being here. I think it’s going to be so good.
So why don’t you guys tell the audience a little bit about who you are and what you’re passionate about. You guys have a really specific mission, so let’s hear a little bit about that.
GUESTS: This is Julie. The three of us have been doing life together for over a decade and so when you do that, you really grow together as a family. It was probably about five years ago that we were sitting around (it was November) and we were having coffee in a coffee shop, talking about the upcoming Christmas season and just sort of lamenting how commercial our Christmas seasons have become.
And that’s when we really first started talking about kindness with our families, our children, and wanting to do the Christmas season differently than what we had done in the past. And so that’s really what this came out of.
It began over Christmas and then we did that for a couple of years and then we just rolled it out into other areas of our lives. As we were intentional about it, it became part of our lives and part of our everyday day-to-day thinking. And then sort of poured over into our kids. And so that’s how we just really, in a superficial nutshell, sit here today. It started because we just wanted something different for our kids when we were looking around at the Christmas season.
ALLIE: Yeah, I love that. And I also love that this really came from your desire for something better for your kids. And so that’s our topic today. Just talking about how you can teach kids to be kind, what kindness looks like. I think also just teaching them to kind of step outside of themselves.
Like I was saying before we recorded, I polled my audience for what they would want to know about this topic from you guys and I think it’s gonna be so good. It’s all great.
But also aside from just how to deal with boundaries, and when someone else is not kind to you or being kind to somebody else. Also, just giving them a taste of something outside of their little bubble and being kind to others.
I love that about the holiday season. How can we focus on what it really is supposed to be about, giving to our community and being kind people. I just think there’s so many different avenues of what you guys are doing.
But for today we’re going to dive into teaching kids kindness, talking about sibling stuff. And I have lots of questions for you guys. So, let’s dive in.
One thing I wanted to ask you guys about is, you know, I think bullying is sadly such a giant problem right now. You know, my kids are home now but we did a little stint of public school last year and I saw a little taste of just kids are so mean. The girl stuff is so young now. My daughter is in third grade and it was like fifth grade, sixth grade stuff when I was little. It’s just sad.
I’ve got a really good friend of mine who’s currently dealing with her son is being actively bullied at school, and it’s just like these little “kindness pep rally” things at school and that’s really it. There’s nothing really being done about it. It’s just sad.
Why do you think this is happening? Why do you think that kids are so mean today? Where is this coming from?
GUESTS: I’ll speak to a little bit of it. So I have a fourth grader, a daughter, and it’s been interesting raising a daughter in this day and age and helping her navigate some difficult social situations. I feel like some of it is coming from us as adults to be quite honest.
If you look at our TV shows, the reality TV shows that are on the TV, the sharp verbal retorts are what are celebrated. Being mean to one another is what is celebrated. And if that’s what we’re seeing – if we’re not really, really careful, that just seeps into us. And then as women, and we don’t even completely think about it, but we then start with a sharp verbal retort or snarkiness. You know, everybody talks about how wonderful it is to be snarky and they laugh about it. Even on social media, a lot of times the memes are very, very cutting. Our humor has become very cutting. The late night tv shows – that humor a lot of times is very cutting.
I’ve been convicted honestly about some of those late night TV comedy shows because it was such cutting humor and I realized that that was seeping into me in a way that I didn’t like about myself. And I wonder if some of that isn’t seeping into our kids too, because our society is celebrating that sharpness instead of humor that isn’t funny at somebody else’s expense.
ALLIE: Yeah, that makes sense. I just think no matter where it’s coming from, if we’re right or wrong about that, it is such an important time to teach our kids about kindness. There’s so many things going on in schools, issues that kids are going through so much earlier than they ever have. Some things are just openly being talked about at school and even outside of school. I’m definitely not a mom who homeschools my kids out of sheltering or anything, it’s just what works for our family, but you see it everywhere.
Neighbor friends will talk about things. If they’re not going to go to school, they’re going to hear about things from someone else.
Things are being talked about openly that have never been talked about openly before. I think it’s all kind of masked in this like, “Well, we’re all inclusive and everyone’s free to be who they are.” Whether you see that as good or negative, it’s really opening the door to these kids just being picked on for very personal things. It’s a war out there and it’s frightening.
So, I would love to know what are some of the best practices, in your opinions, for helping kids kind of understand the heart behind how they’re treating other people? Maybe they’re being kind, they are a kind kid, they’re not really your problem, but other kids are not. Maybe a little one is happy to share, but their friend never shares and that’s super cutting to them, really hurts them. How can you kind of express the heart behind kind of, “This is how the world works. Sometimes you’re super nice and everyone else isn’t.” I don’t know if that even makes sense, but how do you communicate this to them, how things work, and communicate the importance of kindness?
GUESTS: That’s a really good question. I think there are several things. We have kids of all different ages within our families and so a lot of times with younger children, you know, one of the things you had mentioned was even having appropriate boundaries. And so, we start talking with our kids really early on about having appropriate boundaries and also talking with them about how our response is not necessarily dependent on what somebody else says to us. That our heart doesn’t change no matter how people react or what they say to us.
And so we talk a lot about having appropriate boundaries and what’s healthy and what’s not. That we don’t have to allow in, you know, if someone’s bullying you or being unkind or saying unkind things, we don’t have to sit there and take that. But at the same time, we’re not going to respond in the same manner and we can guard our heart a little bit where it doesn’t change who we are just based on how somebody is responding or reacting to us. Our kids are starting to understand that.
And in fact, I was, telling these guys that my 16-year-old son just started a job at a local sandwich shop. He really has enjoyed it, but working in the service profession, he has gotten quite a taste of how people treat service workers, and he comes home sometimes really upset because people are not kind in the way that they talked to him. And we’ve had a lot of conversations about how to respond, even when people are, you know, sometimes downright nasty. I mean they’re just, they’re just not kind at all.
And so again, coming back to that idea that it doesn’t have to change who we are, it doesn’t change our heart regardless of how people react to us.
GUESTS: One thing I also talked my kiddos about is hurt people have a tendency to hurt people. And so, if they’re struggling with somebody who’s being unkind to them, we try to have a conversation about what might be happening in that other child’s life, what circumstances they might be going through that either they know or don’t know about. And then as Kendra said, you know, still having appropriate boundaries, but also understanding that sometimes it’s a reaction to being hurt versus a personal attack.
I think if you keep it in that perspective, sometimes it takes a little bit of the personal attack out of it. It still allows you to handle it, but understanding it might not be quite so personally directed at you, intentionally or not.
Let’s be honest, sometimes there are situations you have to get adults involved and you have to get teachers involved because it isn’t okay. And it is very personal and it’s very direct and we have to step in as parents at those points and do something more about it. But I’m just talking about kids being kids and being mean.
ALLIE: So on that note of boundaries, what does that maybe more practically look like? I feel like, (and I was kind of having this back and forth conversation with somebody on Instagram yesterday about her question), the fact that kids don’t really have the same options, I guess for lack of a better word, as adults with setting boundaries. I mean as an adult you can kind of choose where you are and who you are around. I mean I guess if it’s in the workplace or something it’s kind of different. But kids go where the adults tell them they’re going to go, at school they sit next to who they’re going to sit next to – it is what it is. And they’re kids so it’s just different.
So, if somebody is repeatedly unkind to them and there is maybe a boundary that needs to be put in place for them, what are some of the things that you say? How do you tell your kids to actually physically handle the situation of putting down boundaries? What might that look like?
GUESTS: I mean, I think one of the things that we do on a really practical level is to sort of “role play” almost, and kind of problem solve with them and think about, “Okay, so if somebody says X, Y, Z to you, what could you say back? How could you respond back?” I think kids, like you said, they don’t have a lot of options, they’re used to being told what to do. They’re not always used to fixing their own problems, right?
And so, we want them to know that they do have a sense of agency in responding to people who are unkind or who are bullying. Like Julie said, if it rises to the level where adults need to get involved, that’s fine. But otherwise we really try to have them figure out, or even like I said, role play and give them some specific words or phrases to use so that if the situation happens again, they know what they could possibly say, how they could deflect it, or a way to move beyond it.
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ALLIE: Let’s talk for a second about siblings. I got this message more than any other message yesterday. I’m so proud of them (my kids). They’re super kind people. They’re always noticing that, “Wow! That was really…I would never do that.” But then to each other is a totally different story. You know, sibling rivalry.
I could tell in some of the messages I was getting that these moms were really worried like, “Am I the only one?” No, that’s just how it goes sometimes. Maybe we could have an open conversation about fostering kindness between siblings because it is a totally different ballgame. And so often against the personalities and the behavior that you see in your kids outside of the home. I think we just get super comfortable and it’s like a little war out there in our own homes between siblings.
So, what is your guys’ take on that? How do you foster kindness between siblings? I want to leave the door open for you guys to talk about that topic.
GUESTS: One thing I was thinking about when it comes to siblings is again, like with people in general, having compassion and this idea of being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. I talk about this a lot with my kids even in regards to their siblings is when they come to us and one of them has been unkind or they’re yelling at each other is to have them stop and like, “Look at your sister’s face right now. Look at what you said, what kind of emotion do you see there?”
And having them tell me what it is that they’re seeing. You know, she’s upset, she’s hurt, she’s crying. For them to pause for a moment and see the humanity, the humanness, because I think sometimes within a family, that’s where we lose it a lot because we’re so close that we just forget that this is actually a person and that their feelings are hurt.
And then we talk a lot about how does it feel if you were in their shoes right now. We do this outside the home, but even within our homes, having our kids recognize what does it feel like to put yourself in their shoes. And again, noticing the emotion that’s behind the person’s hurt feelings because a lot of times when they come at each other with anger, anger is usually an emotion that’s covering or hiding something else.
I’m a mom. I’m busy. It doesn’t always happen perfectly, but if I can say, “Okay, let’s pull the anger out of it. Anger is what we express, but what is the emotion that you see behind it?” And having our kids kind of have compassion for one another is really, really important.
GUESTS: I agree with what Kendra is saying. I would also say, and we’ve talked about this a lot, the three of us, it is sometimes far easier to be kind to a complete stranger than it is to be kind to your loved ones because we feel that that’s our safe zone. And so, they get to see our ugly that we would hide from anybody else. That goes as much for our children as it does for spouses and for people that are living under the same roof.
And so just acknowledging, I think that first, that we’re feeling like we’re in our safe spot and that’s where we’re going to let all of our ugly hang out, especially as kids, because they maybe don’t know how else to express emotions or express big feelings and it tends to come out in ugly ways.
One of the things that my husband and I do is once the anger is dissipated – we have to first deal with that – but then we bring people back around for a conversation. We try to model what a healthy relationship looks like for our kids.
So that means we say things like, “Do you see your dad and I screaming ugly names at one another when we’re having a disagreement? Do you see your dad and I shoving one another when we’re having a disagreement?” And so, we have these very intentional conversations about healthy conflict with our kids. Now, again, once the dust has settled, right, and all of the emotion’s out of it.
We then pull back around and we do have very intentional conversations about what it means to be in healthy conflict with one another. This is not perfect. This is not like a “one and done.” We have these conversations over and over again. But we want our kids to know how to engage with one another and with other loved ones in their future lives in ways that doesn’t tear people apart.
And so, we’re not there yet, but that’s our hope at least is that we’re teaching them some healthy conflict habits. Your sibling is going to be like the person you practice on, but some day you’re going to be maybe married and have kids of your own.
GUESTS: This is really minor, but one of the practical things that we do in our house is we have this thing called a “bicker bucket.” So, if my kids are bickering, I’ll pull out the bucket, right? And they pull out the slips of paper. Sometimes it’s chores, but it’s usually things like write a poem about your sister and how much you love her or write your 10 favorite things about your sister.
ALLIE: That is such an amazing idea. I’m writing it down.
GUESTS: You know what is funny though? My 8-year-old tolerates it. My 6-year-old loves it and she will actually ask for more slips of paper. So you know it doesn’t always work, but sometimes it’s enough to just pull them out of the moment, out of whatever they’re bickering about and refocus them on, “Okay, I do love my sister and these are the 10 things that I love about her.”
ALLIE: Yeah. That’s sweet. And I think too what you said, Julie, about that they are like that because this is their safe zone and we’re like that too. And like I was saying, I noticed in a lot of the messages that I got about this episode that these women were kind of stressed that this was happening in their home and I was thinking “well that happens here, I just don’t really think about it,” but I also grew up in a big family so I understand that it just gets crazy.
But I think it’s comforting to us as moms that, well look at yourself. We all do that. You can be nagging at your husband and bickering really bad and then the pizza guy knocks on the door and you’re like, “Hi!” and way nicer to a stranger than your own husband. It’s just human nature.
So, I think it kind of alleviates a little bit and helps me feel like, “Well this is totally normal and it’s okay,” but that doesn’t mean that we’re just like, “Oh, whatever.” You can be intentional to foster some changes and act that out yourself. I love that.
Okay. So, what are your feelings about forcing apologies between, I think this could be siblings or friend to friend with your kids? I have thought about this for so many years and never really known what to do. It feels almost like an adult’s obligation to be like, “You need to say sorry for, you know, accidentally bumping your friend’s head with this toy guitar,” or whatever’s happening because it’s a little awkward. What else do I say here? “Say you’re sorry.”
And then between siblings, I find myself doing that too. And I got a lot of messages about this too. So, what is your take on that disingenuous/forced apologies situation between young kids?
GUESTS: You know, I do make my kids do that, but I make them do it in a specific way. They have to not just say “I’m sorry,” because my kids will try to mumble and get through it as quick as they can. And it’s not really a true apology.
I make them say the person’s name and I make them say what they’re apologizing for. I think maybe they’re still not truly apologetic, but at least there’s a part of them that’s recognizing that something occurred here that requires an apology. But my kids are pretty little still, so I don’t know if you would require the same or not.
GUESTS: You know, I do. I’ve got a 10-year-old and an 8-year-old and especially when they were younger, I required apologies. Part of it is it’s a habit. You form a habit of apologizing when you have done something that requires an apology. So, it’s even just like learning that this is the kind of behavior that we exhibit. These are good manners.
One thing I have started doing, in our house our bedrooms are off of a circular landing and so my children’s doors are next to each other but also slightly tilted towards each other. And so, this last summer when we were home and they would just have too much of each other. I sent them each to their room and told them that they could not come out until they had worked it out themselves and apologized.
And so, they sat in their doorways and surprised and shocked me as a mom because I eavesdropped a little bit and they sincerely apologized and then actually talked out their differences. So, “Well John, when you did this, it made me feel” and I was like, “Oh, be still my heart!”
So, I think there is something to be said for forcing apology at least at some point so that they learn what that looks like and then continue to model it. But I don’t know about older kids. I think that’s hard.
GUESTS: I think the modeling is probably one of the most important parts. I think one of the things that we’re all quick to do is I’ll apologize to my kids if I’ve messed up. And I think as adults we really have to take the lead on that. If we expect our kids to have honest and sincere apologies, then they better hear us apologize when we mess up.
And as Julie said, they better here it, you know, if you’re married between you and your spouse, or genuinely apologizing to our kids because I mess up too. And so a lot of times, especially with my teenagers, I feel like that’s really, really valid. That when they see that I am reciprocating, that mom doesn’t expect me to be perfect or to do these things, that she’s willing to meet me as well, it makes our relationship much more level and much more honest.
ALLIE: Yeah, I love that. Okay, so you have authored together several books, right? The most recent one, you so kindly, kindly sent to all the ladies on my team and I have mine. It’s the One Year Daily Acts of Kindness Devotional. So, tell us about that. Why did you guys write that? What was the inspiration there and what is your hope for all the women who get their hands on that?
GUESTS: So that book really came out of that coffee conversation I briefly mentioned. It really was birthed out of that conversation over a number of years. We did Advent Acts of Kindness for a couple of years and then Kristin came to us and said, “Hey, what if we did this all year long?” And we were like, “ Uh…sure!”
And so, we set out to do kindness for a year and kind of rotated between families and tried lots of different things. We failed and we were successful, but found that it really changed our hearts as adults, as women. And then also started to change our family’s perspective in some significant ways. And so that book was birthed out of that. We never set out to write a 365-day devotional on kindness.
So that’s where we came with it, but quite honestly the hope we get out of it, or we hope that others get out of it, is that your lives are changed. We find kindness to be, when we’re intentional about it, empowering. So often in our culture and our society, we see things happening and our kids come home and they see things happening and feeling scared and hopeless about it. Like the hurricanes that hit Texas and Florida last year, one of the things that we did as a family is we came together with our kids and said, “Okay, what would you like to do to respond to this? How could we help out?”
Kendra was put in touch with a teacher down in Texas. Her classroom had been destroyed and she needed pencils and paper and just some basic resources. And so, we sent her gift cards. I’m going to cry, but our kids were a vital part of that. So, empowering our children so that when something bad is happening in the world, they are doers of good and they can do something affirmative instead of just sitting and feeling like things happen to them. I think that’s been one of the biggest takeaways for us.
ALLIE: Yeah, I love that. It’s super powerful and you know, I think that this whole topic is an area of life, but especially of raising kids that is so key and it’s one of those things that just kind of slips under the radar. You don’t think about it very often in and how sad is that when it’s so important and so formative for the people that they ended up being. It’s just so hard. Motherhood is hard and it’s a lot of different pieces and things. It feels like so much to remember.
So what I love about the 365-day devotional, even just from flipping through it a little bit – Amazing! Totally applicable for our families, for your own self as an adult woman or for kids or for your entire family, and just full of these little things. You don’t realize how simplistic being kind can be and just doing these tiny little acts.
It’s not really about the acts or even what it’s doing for the other person that you’re affecting. It’s that it’s changing your mindset to kind of get into the habit of just always having that giving state of mind on the back burner. Then it becomes more at the front of your mind and you find yourself doing things more and more, and using things as teaching opportunities for your kids because you’ve been acting kind and putting that in your brain a little. It’s like planting a seed and then it grows.
I love what you guys are doing. I think you’re just amazing.
Where can our audience connect with you further and find more of what you’re doing and the three of you together too, if they want to, after this episode?
GUESTS: They can find us directly at theruthexperience.com and we’ve got tabs for books. These two ladies are speakers and all kinds of different things. We blog on there regularly.
You can also find us on Facebook as The Ruth Experience, as well as Instagram.
We’re always posting different resources for different times of year. So, it’s not just that we focus on one specific time of year, but right now if you go to our website, on the sidebar, you can sign up to get some of our resources. And right now we’ve got resources for Free Acts of Kindness that you can do, How To Be Kind When You’re Tired, which I think is for moms especially. We have a lot of great resources like that.
So, find us on social media and we update there a lot.
ALLIE: Yeah. And I’ll link to all that for you guys in the show notes so they can easily find you.
Well, thank you so much ladies. This was so, so wonderful. I’m really glad we had you on and thank you for all your wisdom and your encouragement. Everything that you said was great. Easily applicable and very grace-laced. That’s helpful when you’re a busy mom. Thank you, guys, so much for being here!
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See ya next time!
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