Kindness and Kids

It’s the month of love and friendship, which always gets me in the mood to talk about kindness and kids. It’s one of the hardest things to do; to raise kind, compassionate children who set healthy boundaries in their relationships. And yet, it’s possible. I promise.

I think it’s important to reflect on our goals when it comes to raising kind kids. I’d begin by asking you this: What’s more important to you: to have kind kids or to have kids who have a huge friend group? I know what you’re thinking – if you have kind kids, they’ll have lots of friends.

But I want you to know something fundamental: Sometimes, kids must go against the flow to be kind. And sometimes that means a smaller friend circle. Sometimes that means being lonely. And that’s a tough thing to watch when you are that kid’s parent.

Something that I’ve learned as a parent is that fitting in with the crowd often means following that crowd. It’s human nature, written into our genetic code. You have a much greater chance of survival if you stay in larger numbers.

When the crowd you follow tends to welcome anyone, it’s pretty easy to be kind. You don’t stand out by accepting newcomers. Perfect situation. And I hope that’s your child’s experience. Well, mostly, I do, anyway.

A lot of times, however, that isn’t exactly the case. Sometimes, a child will enter your child’s life and make things pretty uncomfortable. They don’t seem to follow the latest trends. They don’t care about being cool. They say things that people generally don’t agree with or understand. They laugh too loud. They don’t talk much. They don’t know anyone.

That’s where the testing comes in. All that talking you did when they were little about helping others and sharing toys and getting along – it’s not so easy now. Your child wants to be kind, and they are. They don’t bully that new kid. They say hi when they pass them in the hallway. They don’t try to get out of it when the teacher pairs them up to do a group project.

But when they choose their lunch table, do they ask that kid sitting alone to join them? Do they add them to the class group chat when everyone seems to conveniently forget? Do they include them in birthday party invitations?

Do you call them out on it when they don’t? Or do you just want your child to get through their own school experience unscathed? So I ask you again: What’s more important to you?

I will tell you what I told my own kids (and still do): the simple act of eating with a kid sitting alone can change a life. It might be theirs. And it also might be yours. Being kind isn’t always the easy thing to do. But it’s always the right thing.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that my kids always leaped out of their comfort zones to be kind. I won’t say I have either. But it’s something we’re conscious of. And my kids have made that choice many times, sometimes at a pretty hefty cost. But they’ve made lifelong friends that way. And they’ve developed a whole lot of character.

Which is why I said earlier that I MOSTLY hope your child has that perfect situation. I think character is forged while swimming against the current to do the right thing. Not easy, no. But what more do we want for our kids than a strong, tenacious, resilient, compassionate character?

And, speaking as a mom whose kids have been on the receiving end of that kindness and strength of character, the difference it’s made in their lives is a beautiful, irreplaceable gift that’s helped form who they are: kind, compassionate changemakers.

Author

  • Leza Warkentin

    I have been living and teaching in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, since the turn of the century. I am a Canadian with a musician-Mexican husband and two Mexican-Canadian patas saladas who are growing up way too fast.

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