Kindness can be defined as empathy, compassion and being friendly. Studies have shown that generous people perform better. Helping others broadens our learning and helps to form deeper relationships. Darwin recognised that helping others was a part of natural selection as “Tribes who were always ready to aid one another would be victorious over most other tribes.”
This week has been National Anti-Bullying Week, with its focus on ‘choosing kindness’. In a survey conducted by Bullying UK in 2016 they found the following statistics:
- 50% of young people were bullied about how they looked
- 81% of young people were called horrible names by others
- 55% of young people were left out by their friends
This type of behaviour at Yateley Manor is rare and if it does occur, we endeavour to tackle it quickly with effective lines of communication. In our remote assembly this morning the children were encouraged to choose kindness.
Great thinkers from Martin Luther King Jr. to the Dalai Lama have all had something to say about the importance of helping others. The civil-rights leader stated, "Life's most persistent and nagging question is 'What are you doing for others?'" The soft-spoken spiritual leader referred to doing good deeds as "Our prime purpose." One girl in school the other day told me, "Helping feels good because it's nice for the other person and for you."
Children are actually hardwired to be considerate and kind. "The desire to help is innate," according to David Schonfeld from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Their sense of doing good develops as they grow. "At first, children like to help others because it helps them get what they want. Next, they do so because they get praise. Finally, they begin to anticipate the needs of others, and it becomes intrinsically rewarding to do nice things for people in their lives."
Kindness can be taught. As parents we must nurture and guide a child's natural inclination to pitch in so it becomes a lifelong habit. "It's important to be a good role model—children learn to be helpful from watching you," says Dr. Schonfeld. Here are a few ideas from a brief search online:
Make “helping” a family event
When a friend becomes sick or a family member has a hard time, adults know what to do. We send flowers, bake cakes and run errands. Get your child involved in these projects. Ask them what they would like to do to help out or suggest arranging the bouquet, layering pasta in the lasagne pan or collecting cans of food. When you drive over to deliver the gifts, take your children along. They will find out first-hand how good it feels to brighten someone's day. This is also a great opportunity to talk about being on the other side of the equation - ask them whether they remember when someone did something nice for them and how it made them feel.
Organise shared jobs
Children need to understand that a certain amount of helping is requested and required "just because"…just because they are members of the family, just because they live under the same roof and just because it is the right thing to do. Show them where the cat food is and how to clear the dinner table or make their beds. Keep a chart of jobs to track and reward the completion of their tasks. Children will feel great pride in doing their share.
Lighten someone's load
Send your child out to meet the post person on the pavement before they have to climb your steps or walk up the driveway. Offer a fellow shopper help to the car with her bags. Let someone with less items go ahead of you in the line at the supermarket.
To truly set our children up for success in life, teaching them to be kind is possibly the most moral attribute. Ultimately, is the true test of parenting not what they achieve but how your children treat others? We must remember, as far as children are concerned, that what we do is far more powerful than what we say.