Creating a Kinder World
If we were to rely on the media for our perceptions on the state of the world we could be forgiven for thinking that the planet, our leaders and even our institutions are in a state of chaos. Yet at a local level we see people do amazing things. We see acts of generosity and kindness on a daily basis and yet this news is swamped by less than acceptable behavior from politicians and world leaders. We regularly hear of the growing focus of looking after the individual rather than the community. The introduction of the phrase ‘leaners or lifters' has been quite divisive and is not only misleading, it is also simplistic and lacks any appreciation of peoples circumstances or how complex life is for many people.
So how do we change these perceptions and how can we take a more positive stance in valuing people and building community? Your daughters provide us with wonderful direction in this area as we see beautiful acts of generosity, kindness and selflessness on a daily basis. This doesn’t happen by chance and it isn’t a consequence of you sending your daughters to St Mary’s College. You are leading by example and giving your daughters important life messages on how to contribute to a more peaceful and kinder world. That’s not to say that your daughters are necessarily perfect all of the time, however, they are young people who recognise the value of kindness.
There is some research around how parents teach kindness and empathy to their children and it’s not a matter of sitting kids down for long ethical discussions or going through an examination of conscience on a daily basis.Many parents do it very naturally through their actions, words and the way they treat others. I have listed a few strategies that have been identified that support the growth and development of kind and empathetic kids.
While this sounds like a very simple strategy, listening to our kids can be easier said than done. With busy schedules and never ending ‘to do lists’, many parents find it difficult to be totally present to their children. A good strategy is to have regular check-ins with your children throughout. Active listening is a valuable tool and focusing your full attention on what your child is saying, and rephrasing so they know you are listening, is a very effective strategy. Unfortunately adults are as captivated by technology as kids and so putting the device or phone down when talking to our kids models positive behavior and lets our children know they are our priority.
- Acknowledge their Feelings
Growing up is a grueling process and, while we might reflect back on our own school days as the best days of our lives, is not something our kids necessarily feel or want to hear. Even making such comments can undermine confidence or feelings, particularly on stressful days. Modelling kindness is a wonderful strategy, whether it’s a hug, making your kids a hot chocolate or simply sitting down with them for a while. Being there for kids sends a powerful message about how we prioritise them in our lives. By parents demonstrating compassion and understanding they show that family is a key priority and, more broadly, that respect for others is an important issue in life. This allows children to recognise and value their own priorities and emotions as well as the emotions of others.
- Model Kindness
The random interactions that we have with our kids provide wonderful opportunities to model kindness and empathy. While we might see these interactions as inconsequential, kids remember them. We often don’t realise the tremendous influence we have on our children. While it may not feel like it, our children look up to and hold us in the highest regard – they just don’t show it a lot of the time. They also imitate us in the way they interact with others. As parents we can choose the behaviours we model to our children and we validate their actions.
- Embrace Difference
It’s important that we demonstrate that difference is to be celebrated and embraced. We do this very naturally when we treat all people with dignity and respect. However, there are times when we need to be overt in talking about and modelling acceptance of diversity. Racism, discrimination in all its forms, and difference need to be respected and discussed, and it is here that kindness and empathy are most needed.
Parenting is a tough, exhausting and multilayered job, but there is no more precious work than this.
I hope you have a lovely weekend.
Dr PittBack to All Articles