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How often do you impress upon your children the importance of being kind? I expect it’s not something many of us talk about with great regularity, though I think we should. With the meanness and bullying that crops up in schools and in some of our homes, children need to learn and appreciate the value of kindness.
We talk about having pets as a good way of instilling kindness in children. Perhaps children even have a natural tendency towards being kind and gentle, until they are taught that other traits are more effective in getting them what they want.
I think it would be safe to say that we don’t really value kindness in our society as a whole. We might think about it during the holiday season by giving to those less fortunate or serving turkey dinner at the local soup kitchen. Being kind to those we love on Valentine’s Day is popular, too. But as a daily admonishment? Not so much.
Do we get ahead in business by being kind to our customers, our competitors? We could, but often when companies do, it makes headlines because that is so not the American way. We’re all about brashness and getting ahead by doing whatever it takes. Kindness would have us sharing our wealth or our winnings, and many of us would be hard pressed to do that, don’t you think?
But here’s an interesting thought to consider. The opposite of kindness are traits like thoughtlessness, meanness, and cruelty. This month, I talk about two new parenting centers that will be opening soon in hopes of helping parents learn how to manage the challenges of child rearing before their children are adversely affected.
Because what science tells us is how dangerous cruelty can be — on both our body and soul. There is mounting evidence that suggests when children are exposed to homes where anger, abuse, or domestic violence is the norm, toxic stress can result. Such stress actually rewires the growing brain, leaving residual effects that can predispose the individual to a host of physical or emotional issues later in life.
At the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, administrators write, “Without caring adults to buffer children, the unrelenting stress caused by extreme poverty, neglect, abuse, or severe maternal depression can weaken the architecture of the developing brain, with long-term consequences for learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health.”
Practicing kindness may seem like a small anecdote when larger problems loom, but kindness is like a salve, it can make life just a bit easier for each of us.
So the next time you are find yourself flying off the handle in frustration, take a deep breath and try a little kindness instead. It takes thinking through your actions, but by being kind, you’ll be setting an example for your children about what it means to manage yourself in times of stress.
Here are some ways of spreading kindness:
- Treat others as you would want to be treated.
- Use helpful words instead of mean ones.
- Assist your child instead of putting him down.
One of Glenn Campbell’s songs always stuck with me. When it comes to mind, it makes me consider my own actions. As the song says, try a little kindness. You might be surprised how people respond.
Don’t walk around the down and out Lend a helping hand instead of doubt And the kindness that you show every day Will help someone along their way You’ve got to try a little kindness, Yes show a little kindness Just shine your light for everyone to see And if you’ll try a little kindness, you’ll overlook the blindness Of the narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets. ~ Glen Campbell