I am a little late posting for the Virtue Series – family is always a priority!
Today I would like to talk about Gentleness. Here’s a very nice quotation by Abdu’l-Baha that says it all:
“Love and affinity are the fruits of a gentle disposition,
a pure nature and praiseworthy character”.
Since our younger daughter was born, we started emphasising gentleness even more in order to teach our older daughter to take better care of her sibling. It isn’t very easy for a young child not to get excited when playing with the baby, it is often overwhelming when babies grab things and don’t want to hand them back.
So a phrase: “Please be gentle and careful with your sister” has become somewhat a mantra. From time to time I stop and remind miss T that being gentle means being soft in touch, walking slower when holding her sister’s hand, speaking quietly especially when the baby is asleep and controlling own emotions (e.g frustration when the baby breaks or tears you something, or grabs something and doesn’t want to give back; excitement when playing with the baby or walking with her).
Often the older child doesn’t show gentleness because he/she feels deprived of attention, especially when parents constantly chase the child away from the baby. I found it is helpful to involve our older daughter into helping with the little one. Here are some ideas on what an older sibling from 2+ years old can do:
1. Diaper change: bring clean diaper and wipes and a change of clothes for the baby. Entertain the baby with a song or a rhyme during the change.
2. Consoling the crying baby: you’d be surprised at the ability of your children to entertain their younger siblings. Miss T would sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on repeat or Jack and Jill with actions and it would quiet miss A down and bring back the smile.
3. Taking a shower/bath together: this may not be acceptable in some cultures, especially if the children are of different genders. However, if it is acceptable in your household (and probably only till a certain age), having a baby in a bath chair and an older sibling next to him/her (under supervision, of course!) makes bath time much more pleasant.
4. Feeding: if you are breastfeeding, it is very good to let your older children sit next to you and quietly observe. If you are bottle-feeding, then the older child can help hold the bottle. When the baby start solid food, the older sibling can help giving food from the spoon or offer snack and finger food. Miss T used to help me with making baby food as well!
5. Entertaining the baby: toys, rattles, singing, dancing, and later – playing together with dolls, blocks, puzzles and other toys. Reading for the baby was always and still is one of the most favorite entertainment activities. And if you older child is old enough to be left alone with the baby, mommy gets to take a shower and cook a meal while they are playing! (I would still recommend supervision as in constantly checking on them and also having them play somewhere near you).
6. Baby massage and/or baby exercise: we had and have wonderful time giving massages to miss A and miss T. We also have fun exercising together and used to do baby yoga when miss A was an infant!
Of course gentleness is not only about caring for siblings – once we teach it, we teach the child to be gentle with everyone and everything, use kind and polite speech, ask for things instead of whining or screaming out.
Remember though: the best example – is you. If you are a gentle person, most probably your children will pick it up after you (this is something I have to remind myself every single day as I am a spirited person myself)!
Teaching gentleness require patience, just as with all other virtues.
How do you go about gentleness in your household? Please share, I’d love to hear about it!