Thursday, November 15, 2012

5 things I have learned about teaching kids to be kind

I was cleaning up in my bedroom while my son was watching Sesame Street in the living room and I heard Grover say "Super Powers of Observation!!!"
I have no idea why he said this I immediately zoned out and started thinking about Psych and Sean Spencer's (main character from the TV show Psych) crazy observation skills. It also got me thinking about my daughter and the Kindness Routine we started a few weeks back which has everything to do with observing. I don't normally give up dates on projects but since I have learned so much more I wanted to share it with you. So everyday before my little hops on the bus I tell her to "find something kind to do for someone else." After school on the way home I ask her what kind thing she did for someone else (this is simplified if you missed that post the link is above). We have done this everyday since starting the Kindness Routine. It has gone one of two ways 1) She becomes a mixture of disappointment and frustration and then tells me she couldn't find anything kind to do for someone else. I then ask her about her day which always ends up with being able to help her see a way in which she was kind without even really trying. As she tells me about her day I am able to point out at least one kind thing that she did which always makes her surprised and elated.  2) If she did something kind for someone else that is the first thing she wants to talk about when she gets in the van after school.
1) Kids need to be able to identify what kind acts are. I really didn't give this much thought when we started the Kindness Routine, it's obvious how to be kind right? Sometimes kind acts come so naturally they don't even realize they have done something kind. So they don't always identify it as being kind it's just what you do. However in identifying kind acts they are more able to see other ways to be kind.  It's crazy how often I am reminded how little they do know and how much they have to learn. Sometimes we expect them to know way more then is realistic, know what I mean?
 2)The thing I have REALLY realized is that being kind takes practice and I reassure her of that "don't feel bad, being kind takes practice just like learning to read does, in time you will be awesome at it, and you are already doing a great job." 3) It's also made me realize how important starting the kindness routine really is. If I want her to look beyond herself these few minutes that we talk about kind acts everyday is SUPER important. It has made me REALLY see how we need to make sure what we do with our time aligns with our values. If you value hard work are you teaching your kids how to work hard? 4) It doesn't take much time to teach what we really value if done consistently. We just need to be consistent and find meaningful ways to bring to life and teach what we value. Of course we also have to model the behavior we want our kids to follow. It has just made me see how focusing a few minutes can pay dividends in the future.
 5) Role playing. I read some posts about role playing at Family Volly and realized how truly helpful role playing is. You will see how your kid thinks in different situations which will enable you to help them in ways you wouldn't be able to otherwise. Role playing really just makes a ton of sense. When she has told me about situations with friends where they have disagreed we role play which helps her see how she can handle similar situations in the future with more kindness.
What if we all tired a little harder to develop Super Kindness Observation Skills? The more we put effort into seeing these opportunities the more we will have them. At times I feel like there just isn't opportunities to help someone I know right now. Ha! That's because I'm not looking very hard I'm not being observant I am too wrapped up in what I am doing to really see what anyone else may need. The Kindness Routine is also helping my 3 year old. As Zaya tells us about what she that was kind that day he is totally quite and listening and when she pauses he will say without fail "Then what happened Zaya?" So he is learning from his big sister. Oh...and one side effect of developing keen observation skills is that you may notice I did at Whole Foods. Taylor Kitsch, no one in busy store noticed him but me and I got to chat with him, being observant can have unexpected rewards :)
I think I may need to make a printable for this, what do you think???

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  1. This is so sweet...and it's so true that we really have to help them develop an eye for kindness as it were...recognize when someone needs help and also when you've done something good (c: I also love the idea of role playing, I think the kiddos would *love* that!

  2. This is a really great post. You are very astute to recognize that sometimes we need to remember that our children might need that help in recognizing these things. You must be a good model if your daughter is often doing acts of kindness and helping others, even if she may not always recognize it immediately. We have been focusing a lot on gratitude, even though my oldest son is 3.


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