A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.“Amelia Earhart.
April 28th is Pay It Forward Day. It was founded with the purpose of creating a ripple of kindness that touches people around the world. If you’ve been on the receiving end of a random act of kindness, think of how it made you feel. And if you’ve been living in the United State, you know just how desperately we need to see things change.
My time as a middle school teacher showed me that need to intentionally teach children to be kind. No matter what community I worked in, there was always at least one instance bullying and/or teasing within the school. My students would share the mean comments a student made about their classmate before a fight broke out. Or even inappropriate and hurtful remarks made to an adult before the student was given consequence. Because of what I saw in the classroom, I am committed to raising a young person who will bring good to the world.
Here are a few ideas I have on how to teach kindness to children.
Be Kind to Yourself
Children don’t miss anything. Although my son is only 21 months old, I see him observing me each day. When I kiss my husband, he smiles or laughs. When I express pain or discomfort, he looks concerned. Because I know that he is watching me, I want to model good things for him. Here are a few ways that you can model being kind to yourself for your child everyday.
When I set and adhere to my boundaries, I show my son that it is okay to protect our space. Additionally, this gives him permission to create a life that allows him to be at his best.
Practice self care
When I practice self-care, I ensure that my own needs are met. Whether it be by taking naps, making doctor’s appointments or pausing work to stretch or walk, it all adds up. Anytime Lennox sees me caring for myself, it shows him that he should do the same. I’m a believer in the idea that we can only treat others as well as we’ve treated ourselves. So as he learns the value he has, he will begin to value others as well.
Be Kind to Your Child
In my circles, we have had a lot of conversations lately about what healthy parenting looks like. Although I had parents who did everything they could to protect me, they also expected complete obedience to every command. Since disagreement was seen as disobedience and I loved the question “why,” I stayed in hot water. I have since decided to do some things different with my son. Here are a few things I try to do eacy day.
allow children to make age-appropriate actions
Learning what is and is not age-appropriate can transform how we parent. When we understand that toddlers have meltdowns as a way to express themselves, we can comfort them instead of becoming angry. Similarly, when we recognize that the pre-frontal cortex that controls impulse-control doesn’t fully develop until the mid-20s, we can have more patience with our teens. Anytime we give our children the space to grow in their own time, we show them that we’re all a work in progress. And, that grace should be abundant.
Treat Them with Dignity
One phrase that I have always despised says “children should be seen and not heard.” This saying has been used to keep children “in their place” as a less significant member of the family. Learning more about children’s development and their needs has taught us that children need to be treated with dignity. Giving children respect simply for being human allows them to expect that same respect from everyone they encounter.
By choosing to practice kindness towards ourselves and our child, we show our children that every action towards a kinder world counts. I’m a believer in the Golden Rule, and I want to encourage Lenny to treat others in the way that he wants to be treated.