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Mother Teresa once wrote about kindness: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
Have you ever noticed how, on those days you greet others with kind words and smile, that your daily activities fall into place a bit easier?
Kindness is an important virtue that’s often in short supply in today’s competitive world. Snarkiness, impatience, selfishness, these are certainly in vogue. But kindness, compassion? We’re often too self-absorbed to really put the needs of others ahead of our own.
Yet that’s what kindness is about, it is a gesture or act towards another that is meant to uplift and make a person’s else’s day lighter.
Consider your own acts of kindness, perhaps it’s your willingness to stop and really listen to your children or your spouse. Maybe it’s your ability to treat others fairly; perhaps it’s your strength to put your family’s needs ahead of your own. Or the way you sincerely compliment your children on the choices they’ve made, their behavior, or when they’ve done a good job at school.
Think about how you engage with those around you each day and consider how often you respond with acts of kindness.
Because, in order for our children to learn important virtues such as kindness and empathy, they need to see it modeled by us, their parents, or other adults in their lives. The benefit of kindness is that it builds a bridge between people; it enables us to make life brighter for those around us; it encourages cooperation.
The idea of teaching our children kindness seems as though it should be a no-brainer. Yet, in our competitive world, I’m not sure kind responses come to mind when addressing family problems. I recently ran across several articles about parents who, under the auspices of teaching their kids a lesson, thought public humiliation or embarrassment was the way to go when driving home the notion of respect.
One couple, in an article on website The Stir, thought they would teach their daughter a lesson for complaining about them on Facebook by posting embarrassing pictures of themselves on her wall. What was surprising to me was to see how many parents responded by saying they endorsed this as good practice. I find this troubling. As parents, we are supposed to be leaders for our children. We are called to model behavior that will help our children grow into responsible, caring adults.
We worry about our kids being bullied in cyberspace, yet give a tacit thumbs-up to doing something similar as parents? The teenage years are hard enough without widening the divide. Could kindness have turned around that teen’s behavior? Perhaps.
Children — especially teenagers — want to feel valued by us. And acts of kindness telegraph our care and respect for them. Imagine how that teenage girl might have felt had she returned home after posting her complaints and her mother offered to spend the afternoon at the mall with her. Or her father had taken her out for lunch, just the two of them, to talk about what’s going on in her life. Wouldn’t acts such as these do more towards building a bridge to a child rather than an act that can only perpetuate hurt?
In her story A More Humane Society, freelance writer Andria K. Brown writes about how children can learn kindness through working with animals. I believe this can introduce children to selflessness and help them connect how our actions can directly impact and benefit another. My hope is that those children and families are taking these lessons from the shelter and practicing them at home with each other as well.
In honor of World Kindness Week, November 13-20, take some time to think about how you can put more kindness into your own family life. Here are some ideas: Make your family’s favorite meal, listen to your children, one-on-one, take your family on a surprise outing, make time to play or explore with your kids, do a favor for another family, donate used and gently worn children’s clothing and toys to the YWCA, or House of Grace (CMOM is collecting November 19-21), pick up trash together in your neighborhood, think every day about how your actions affect others.
If we all could perform small acts of kindness for each other, I believe the world would be better for it, don’t you? Give it a try.