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Challenge: Raising Kind Kids

Kindness, the Verb

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I’m not sure I was raised to be kind. (Kind: adj. of good or benevolent nature or disposition). I was raised to be nice (also an adjective: pleasing, agreeable, delightful). This was not my parents’ misstep; it was a different time and different vocabulary. It was circa 1970’s, long before Ellen DeGeneres started reminding us every day to “be kind to everyone”. Nice and Kind were erroneously yet, innocently, intertwined.

So we said “That was nice (meaning: kind) of you to include Kelly in your class project” or “It’s a nice (meaning: pleasant) day for a bike ride. Or, it’d be nice (meaning: wish for) to get an easy bake oven for Christmas. This still happens, but we can bring kindness to its authentic forefront. In considering how to raise kind children, I reflected back to when the word “kindness” superseded “nice” in my consciousness. Because, as much as validating and modeling kindness benefits our children, a defining moment could ingrain it. And, it occurred to me. Random Acts of Kindness. It was a movement that resonated with me. The story of the person that pays the toll in front of another driver. The waitress who picks up the tab for police officers. These stories never get old and we crave them. And, it forced me to consider, maybe kindness could be a verb? Perhaps kindness is the behaviors and actions that embody this virtue? Those teachable moments that can be validated and shared.

And, then I had a brush with a random act of kindness. Kind of. I was coaching a U8 Girls recreational soccer team. At the water break one of the girls stayed back next to me while the others scurried off to hydrate. Before I could even glance around for a water fountain, a teammate ran over and offered her friend a sip of water (as she didn’t bring a water bottle). I acknowledged the gesture and said, “What a kind thing to do”. I felt proud that I validated the act of kindness on the spot. I could have said “nice” instead of “kind” but that would have diminished the intent.

Yet, while still basking in my perfectly timed intervention, my virtuous player who had just shared her water, full on kicked the same girl in the shin! I ran over, perplexed. What is this change of attitude and events? Well, as explained to me, the teammate took her ball. Bang. Enough for a shin kick and the subsequent tears. Dang. So, is the instigator now less kind? Is her original gesture negated? Of course not! As parents we have opportunities to model behavior, validate it and intervene lovingly when our children, quite frankly, act like children.

But let’s start with the awareness that kindness is a behavior, a choice that can be taught and learned. Find ways to have kindness resonate. Ramp up those random acts of kindness! Bringing kindness into the consciousness of our children will require us adults to look inward and be more than nice; be KIND.

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