Today my youngest son’s school begins a “Kindness Challenge.” It’s a week-long effort to promote kindness toward one another. The school sent the kids home with a list of kind acts - things as simple as smile at 25 people or bring a nice note for your teacher. It’s a wonderful way for kids to realize that the smallest actions can have a great impact.
I recognize that there are children (and adults for that matter) who need a kindness reminder. They need “the list” to rustle up deeply-hidden feelings of compassion and kindness. So a “Kindness Challenge” is essential for this specific group as it may be the push necessary to help them flex their thoughtfulness muscles. What I am hopeful for, though, is that a week focused on kindness is simply supplementary to the daily actions of the majority of people.
In our home, we speak a lot about being kind to one another. It sounds a bit hippie dippy, but I think this is why my boys are so thoughtful. It’s my firm belief that we must not only teach and encourage our children to be kind, but SHOW them in our ways of being. How parents interact, including the tone and words used in conversation, instill a positive or negative feeling in children. They know when you’re in love because they see the hugs, but they also know when you’re giving Daddy the silent treatment. Catching ourselves in the moment when we’re about to go to the Dark Side is especially crucial when children are watching.
The lessons of kindness also extend outside the home. When my boys were very young and we would see a child yelling at his mother, or another child being nasty to her sister, I’d come down to their level and ask what they thought of the situation. I’d ask how they thought the mother or sibling felt, and what they thought the upset child was feeling. I asked them if there may have been a kinder way to express those feelings. This had two positive outcomes: my boys never wanted to be the kid freaking out at the store because they now realized how it looked from the outside, and they became more aware of how to express their feelings without disparaging or neglecting those of others.
We would also speak about how some children have behavioral or developmental issues that prevent them from assessing their situations thoughtfully and acting in a productive way. I wanted my boys to understand and sympathize with these children who might not have the same self-restraint they do. This resulted in them realizing that we must appreciate our differences, and to always send positive vibes to others because you don’t know what their story is.
Now that my children are a little older (9 and 12), we don’t need to remind them to be kind. They are generally very empathetic. What we are doing now is reinforcing more compassionate ways by seeking out volunteer opportunities in which to engage as a family. How can we bring joy to others? What can we do to effect positive change?
I look forward to providing an update of our family’s commitment to global kindness. Until then, in the words of Ellen…”Be kind to one another.”