To witness a child display kindness to another child is a wonderful scene to observe, though it is becoming a rare occurrence. To hear about a child in a confrontation with a bully while coming to the aid of a friend being picked on is an even less frequently heard about event. Though these scenarios do play out in the real world, on the playground and in neighborhoods, we need to make a much bigger deal of it, and encourage more of it.
We seem to have instilled a "feel good" attitude in our children, rather than a "do good" attitude. The self-esteem movement created in the 1970's is partially to blame. It does not take a social science degree to understand that self-esteem is a result, and does not cause anything but momentum in either the increasing or decreasing of self-esteem. Self -esteem rises or falls with doing and being because feelings about ourselves depend on what we do and how we react to what happens around us. However, in addition to our conscious reactions, we all have the ability to create our reality with a conscious choice to be kind to others.
The biggest culprit of all in my opinion, are our societal habits and misconception that providing ourselves with more of life's pleasures will provide greater levels of life satisfaction. We, the parents of the world, have pulled our children onto the same treadmill on which we run, and we wonder why children today seem so entitled and ungrateful.
By helping our children understand what events in our lives bring about the greatest feelings of happiness, and engaging in these events with our children, we are instilling in ourselves and our kids that "doing good" far outweighs "feeling good" in terms of lasting happiness. When we do well toward others we feel good, and when we feel good more good comes to us. This is not to say that pleasures in life should not be sought after, but rather an understanding be developed that a pleasurable life combined with a meaningful life leads to a happy life.
Kindness is not just about being kind to others. We must also be kind to ourselves. We have a tendency to be quite hard on ourselves when we make mistakes or experience failure. Our inner-dialogue will tell us things we would surely defend ourselves from if said by someone other than ourselves. Being less critical of ourselves makes learning from mistakes easier, makes us more likely to accept challenges and sets an example for our children that mistakes and failures must happen in order to grow and learn.
A helpful way to be kind to yourself, and a great lesson for kids to learn, is to recognize your strengths. Rather than focus attention on weaknesses in an attempt to overcome them, it might be more productive to focus on your strengths in an attempt to cultivate more of them and use them more often in your day to day life.
We can help our children learn to be kind to others by simply making someone smile, and to consciously recognize the feeling you get inside when you do. It is as easy as smiling at a stranger or giving a friendly wave. It does not take much effort to practice kindness in front of your kids.
Here are some simple things you can do, and encourage your kids to do, to make kindness a part of who you are.
• Hold the door for someone, even if they are not carrying anything.
• At the store, let the person in line behind you with less items go ahead of you.
• Be courteous to the telemarketer that calls you, or to anyone trying to sell you something. They are just trying to get by too.
• Stay calm in traffic, even if you are running late. Life is too short to get all worked up over something out of your control.
• When ever possible, help someone who could use a hand.
• Always be kind to children!
• Say "Thank You" even quietly to yourself for all that you have in your life, ever day.
• Always say "Thank You" when someone helps you.
You can make your day with a SMILE!
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Patrick McMillan is the founder of http://KidsCanDoAnything.com and author of An Exercise in Happiness, an Emotional Fitness Program for kids and parents based on the ancient philosophy and the science of happiness.
Being a stay at home dad with two young boys for many years has motivated Patrick to share with every child the tools and lessons he has learned to create a fulfilling and happy life for himself and his kids.