Ways to Encourage Kindness in Children

When we read the news these days, no doubt we can all agree that the bad guys have one thing in common. Whether they are acting on religious beliefs, or some political motive, or they are suffering from some documented mental issue, in the end their cruel and vicious acts all have one result. What is that result? Hurting innocent people. What do they all have in common? They are all cowards. Yes, they were all taught right from wrong at one point; and at a later point, they decided to put those fundamentals of right and wrong away. They sold the basic premise of human life to some intangible idea that really helps no one. Therefore, encouraging kindness in children is just that: It is putting “courage” into children to always do the right thing; and if they don’t know what the right thing is at the time, to reach out and ask someone for the answer. Getting help from others: It will always be our responsibility as human beings, no matter how disadvantaged or privileged we become. Courage will always be a human responsibility. Kindness is the action of love. Many religions say that God is love. Love can be kind, and love can be tough when it has to be used to correct someone. When we correct someone with love, we are really teaching them that evil will never be tolerated, never win, never be accepted by good people. In essence, then, we are encouraging kindness in children by showing them what the absence of love feels like. It is an indirect way, without resorting to violence, without stooping to anyone’s level, to show children what the opposite of kindness is. This is the background for the ‘time out’ method of discipline. It is the removal of the child from all he enjoys. It is cause for pause, a time to reflect on the “why” they are no longer involved in what they enjoy. Worse than time out would be showing a child literally what it feels like to have done to them what they have done to someone else. Breaking a toy, calling a bad name, running and hiding with other friends for example. This type of teaching would be extreme. There are enough hard knocks in life for a child to encounter without our heaping any more on them. This is where the fable of the North Wind and the Sun comes into play. We learned as children the story of how the Sun got a man to take his coat off simply by shining warmth on him; as opposed to the Wind’s failed efforts of forcing cold air on him. We catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. It is up to us as adults to take the high road, because children learn by doing; more importantly, kids first learn by copying. Kids don’t understand concepts like cowardice. Try to connect a criminal’s act to the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz, and you will only confuse a child. All they see is a bold, brazen bad guy versus a trembling old fool. Tell them that the guy with the gun is a coward, and they may stop listening to you. Instead, show them kindness where cruelty might prevail. Always remain calm, even when all else around you is falling in and people are flailing. The control of anger and emotions is the single most important trait that you can teach a child. When a child sees you act with a smile and a solution when everyone else is failing, he or she will think of you as their super hero. Children remember good times, and children remember bad times. The bad times are usually when they were punished in anger. These memories haunt them and affect their actions for their entire lives. Secondly, always look for the most ideal way to handle a situation when sorting out a dispute or argument among children. Do not resort to cynicism and practical anecdotes collected over a lifetime of hard knocks. Always go with the Golden Rule: Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. Always go with this rule, and children will learn it. Lastly, children may not have the intellectual capacity to internalize conceptual rules, but that capacity will come with age and wisdom. It is the teaching of the actions that must come first. Remember, baby steps. Stupid is as stupid does. But don’t repeat that last one to your kids!
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