Rooted In Kindness
A single act of kindness throws roots out in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.
Amelia Earhart gave us that gem and added the greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.
Using Earhart’s theory, an excellent track of making the world a kinder place should begin by equipping children with the desire and competency to be kind to others, always.
Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist with the graduate school of education, operates the Making Caring Common Project, which is aimed at helping teach kids to be kind. A study conducted by the project shows children are more inclined to believe their parents are more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they care for others.
The group of researchers defend the importance of the study saying we need to intentionally raise children to become caring, respectful and responsible adults. If we want our children to be moral people, we have to raise them that way.
Children are not born simply good or bad, and we should never give up on them. Children need adults who will help them become caring, respectful and responsible adults.
Here are some ways, derived from the Making Caring Common Project, that we can use to empower children to have more empathy toward others and find more happiness with their own actions through recognizing and implementing acts of kindness and care on a daily basis.
Make caring for others a priority.
Parents tend to prioritize their children’s happiness and achievements over their children’s concern for others. But children need to learn to balance their needs with the needs of others, whether it’s passing the ball to a teammate or deciding to stand up for a friend who is being bullied.
- Practice saying to your children, ‘the most important thing is that you’re kind’ instead of saying ‘the most important thing is that you’re happy.’ Model the practice of care and kindness and exhibit the happiness that is the result of knowing you helped brighten someone’s day, life and feeling about themselves and you.
- Make sure that your older children always address others respectfully, even when they’re tired or distracted or angry. Respect is learned and earned.
- Emphasize caring when you interact with other key adults in your children’s lives. Ask teachers whether your children are good community members at school. Tip the server in the restaurant and explain to your child why you do so.
Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude.
It is never too late to become a good person, but it won’t happen on its own. Children need to practice caring for others and expressing gratitude for those who care for them and contribute to other’s lives. Studies show that people who are in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate and forgiving. They also are more likely to be happy and healthy.
- Daily practice of helping a friend with homework, pitching in around the house, or having a classroom job make caring second nature and develop a youth’s caregiving capacities. Learning gratitude involves practicing it.
- Talk to your child about caring and uncaring acts they see on television and about acts of justice and injustice they might witness or hear on the news.
- Emphasize gratitude with a daily ritual at dinnertime, bedtime or in the car. Express thankfulness for those who share kindness with them and others in large and small ways.
- Rewards should be given only for uncommon acts of kindness. Expectations for our children to help around the house, family and neighbors should be a normal part of their day and not something that requires a reward.
Expand your child’s circle of concern.
Children should be encouraged to care about someone beyond the circle of family and friends. This might be a new student in class, someone who doesn’t speak their language or someone who lives in a distant country.
- Make sure your child is friendly and grateful with all the people in their daily lives.
- Be a strong, moral role model.
Children learn ethical values by watching the actions of adults they respect. They learn values by thinking through ethical dilemmas with adults. We need to practice honesty, fairness and caring. It doesn’t mean we are perfect all of the time. For our children to respect and trust us, we need to acknowledge our mistakes and flaws. We need to respect children’s thinking and listen to their perspective, demonstrating to them how we want them to treat others.
Desmond Tutu said, “Do your little bit of good where you are.” If we collectively follow his advice, all of those little bits of good, put together, will overwhelm the world.
Dr. Sherry Durham
SCES Head of School