Raising Kind Children in a Not-So-Kind World
Kindness. The concept seems simple and self-explanatory, but yet we live in a world where we are constantly inundated with unkind words and unkind acts. Whether it be on the local news, on social media, or in our everyday lives and interactions, we are exposed to it and therefore, our children are exposed to it. It is troublesome when the feel-good, heart-warming stories are fewer than stories of hatred and intolerance. Please don’t misunderstand, I am the type of person who chooses to focus on the positive and I don’t mean to sound all gloom and doom. As a parent, however, you don’t always know what your children are taking away from the world around them and how they are processing things. As the mantra goes, all we can do is encourage our children to “choose kindness.” Just recently, a good friend said something to me that really registered, she said, “My feeling is that we can’t just tell them to do kind things, we have to show them and do things with them.” She was absolutely right—words only go so far sometimes.
A few weeks ago, my twin daughters’ friend cut and donated her hair. I talked to the girls about what she had done and the reasons why she did it. We talked about why children might need a wig made out of donated hair and how hair donations could bring other people happiness and confidence. We discussed how Cancer treatments may cause people to lose their hair or other conditions like Alopecia. This seemed to register with them and when I asked them if they would like to donate their hair, there was little hesitation. One of the girls just said she felt “nervous” about getting her hair cut, but when the day came, she overcame her fear for an excellent cause! I was so proud of them and proud to facilitate a lesson in kindness.
Sometimes we wonder as parents if our lessons and examples are sinking in, and then we witness a kind moment facilitated by our child and we are validated that connections are being made. A few months ago, my twin sons were participating in a sailboat derby race in Cub Scouts where they were racing a foam sailboat they made against other members of their den. They had to blow the sailboats using straws to try and cross the finish line first. They raced in several heats and my son, Jack, saw one of his friends getting frustrated and sad that he had yet to win a heat. A moment later, Jack asked the leader if he could race against this boy. As I observed the race, I saw Jack blowing air on his sailboat, but not quite as voraciously as he had in previous heats. When the other boy won the heat over Jack, a huge smile broke out on both of their faces. Jack slyly ran over to me and whispered in my ear, “I really wanted him to win! He’s so happy now!” Be still my mama heart.
I actually found a quote that sums up exactly my point in writing this. It reads, “It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”
Around the holidays, I wanted think of a way to spread kindness in order to highlight for my kids the true spirit of the season. So, I went to what I know best—music and singing and organized a caroling event at a local assisted living community. The Scouts even made reindeer and snowflake ornaments to give to the residents. When we arrived, the activities staff person told us that a lot of the residents don’t have family so our visit would make their whole holiday season. The residents could not stop smiling and thanking us for the songs and ornaments. In turn, the Scouts saw first hand what a difference spreading kindness can have in someone’s life. The whole experience also reminded me that no matter how crazy life gets, there is always time to spread some extra kindness.
We can’t shield our children from the unkind nature of the world, but we sure as heck can teach them the power of kindness.
“No act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted.” ~Aesop