What is the measure of a child’s success? Sure, we all want our children to get good grades. But, have we become too focused on academic abilities rather than the things that really matter?
Children are very in tune with what it is their parents value. If it’s good grades, they will strive to achieve them. It’s time we let them know what really matters...like kindness, friendships, and the little things in life.
When a child is having a rough day at school, it’s not what he learns in math class that impacts him - it’s the kid that makes a special effort to sit by him in the lunch room. Let’s teach our kids to be that kid!
Saying something kind to someone who’s having a bad day, playing with the kid who’s being left out, and sticking up for someone who’s being bullied are all examples of actions we should be proud of our children for taking. Of course those things make us proud, but are we doing a good job of letting our kids know that? I think not.
It’s easy to get so caught up in focusing on recognizing our children’s academic and sports achievements that we fail to place attention on character - like the importance of being kind and the value of being a good friend.
How can we change? First and foremost, children learn by example. What we hold dear, they are likely to mimic. By taking time to go see a sick friend or to bring cookies to an elderly person, we are instilling priceless values in our children. Rather than being frustrated when the clerk at the check-out makes a mistake while ringing you up, take a minute to empathize and say an encouraging word. Remember, your “little” is watching and taking note anytime you do anything.
Acknowledging your child for exhibiting good character is another way to encourage such behavior. Just as you reward your child for making good grades, you can do the same for acts of kindness. You can create a “Good Deeds” chart and let your child put a star up each time he does something nice for someone. Or, when your child does something kind for someone, praise them and let them know what a difference their action made.
A great way to teach your child to look for situations where they can be kind is to play a game. Have him do something kind for someone that day, but not let the person know who did it. This game also teaches them about motives. Explain that acts of kindness should be done selflessly and not for recognition.
You can teach your child to be mindful by making him aware of people’s emotions around him. When the two of you go to the park, point out the kid who is sitting alone on the bench. When you take your child to school, show him the new kid and ask how he thinks they feel. It won’t take long before your child is scouting out those with needs as well.
Children are naturally inclined to pick up on the emotions of others. That’s why they tear up when they see another kid crying. Somewhere along the way, though, we as parents have played a role in desensitizing their sensitivity. We have become too busy and too complacent to teach our children to take time to be kind.
The next time you are talking to your child about school, rather than asking him what academics he learned, ask who was having a hard day or who was sad. Ask if any of his classmates felt left out or got picked on. Then, ask what he did to change that. He will begin to realize the importance you are placing on being nice and will be encouraged to do the same.
You can also draw your child’s attention to the acts of kindness that other people do. When a charity benefit is held for a sick child, tell your own child about it and explain what a wonderful gesture it is. Attending the benefit is even more effective in instilling values. Adopt an under served child or family at Christmastime and let your child help buy presents. The best way to teach children is always “hands-on.”
Teach your child not just to talk about doing good things for others, but to take action. Good intentions must be followed by good deeds or they are worthless. Time and energy spent on showing love, being a friend, and doing kind things is never wasted. When a need is spotted, ask your child, “What can we do to help?”
When someone has a problem, like a child who can’t walk, don’t try to protect your child from knowing about it. Talk to him. Let him know that the child is just like him except they have a physical disability. Ask how he’d feel if he couldn’t walk. Then, ask your child how he might make things better.
You may be surprised at the things your child comes up with. He might decide that including the handicapped child at recess would be a good idea or might even suggest arranging a play date with him. Children are creative and thoughtful so involving your child in solutions is an excellent way to teach him.
Sure, we all dream of our child being a doctor and saving hundreds of patients. We aspire for our child to grow up to be the scientist who invents a cure for cancer and other diseases. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the hopes and dreams we have for them and teach them, instead, to change the world...one act of kindness at a time.
NOTE: Kindness and good deeds is our focus in our Panducorn book, toy, and gift line. We believe that children are naturally magical. They have a heart to help others and to radiate kindness. It is up to us as parents not to stifle the magic, but rather to help bring out those good qualities and do all we can to make them blossom.