How do you teach kindness?
Never mind the picture with sporting awards or a good report card, this is my proud parent bragging photo!
The other day I had just finished working on the car and sat down on the step of the caravan with a drink of water. At this point my body was aching so I let out a groan like an 80 year old man trying to sit down, 25 years of skateboarding has not treated my body well so chronic pain is a part of life for me. Because J spends 24/7/365 with me, it’s also a part of life for him because I am often unable to do things like sit and play with him for long periods due to the pain.
As I sat on the caravan step Jaiden walked up behind me and wanted to get outside, I shuffled over to one side and he squeezed past. He wandered off and a couple of minutes later I heard “Dad… Close your eyes!” unsure about what on earth was going on, I closed my eyes and heard him get closer. There was some clunks and bangs and I thought to myself “What the hell is he doing?!”. I was tired, sore and really wasn’t in the mood for playing games.
“Open your eyes” he says, I open my eyes to discover that he had gone off to the shed, got my chair, carried it over to the caravan and set it up. He says to me “I got your chair because I know you’re back is sore and I want you to be comfortable”, it was at that moment, my heart melted, I smiled from ear to ear and gave him a massive hug. I could not have been prouder.
You see, we live in a society that values that and praises a lot of different things. From a young age we praise kids for things good grades and sporting awards. As we get older it becomes university degrees and good jobs. As children success is measured who has the nicest bike, or newest video game console or the largest lego collection and as we grow up it becomes how nice our car is, what clothes we are wearing, what suburb we live in, what our house looks like and how much we’re earning.
These things are all measures of success in the western world, and that’s fine. But we spend so much time focusing on these things that I think we often forget about teaching our children the importance of being compassionate, generous and empathetic. Should we not be focusing more on creating a generation of kind human beings rather than ones that only wish to pursue academic success or the endless pursuit of material possessions? It seems to me that so little value is placed on human connection and the importance of healthy relationships with family and friends that these things are slowly being forgotten as time goes on. This worries me.
I don’t think there’s a need to sit kids down and read them a book or watch a movie on it; I think it’s up to us as parents to model the behaviour. Show them what it means to be compassionate, generous and kind to everybody, even strangers! Model healthy relationships with family and friends and remove toxic people from your life so they are seeing their loved ones surround themselves with people who uplift them, who care for them, and love them and those who seek to belittle them or inflate their own sense of being. I am absolutely brutal with boundaries and I make no apologies for it, the people who are in my life have a direct impact on my happiness and also are role models for Jaiden.
Modelling kindness does not have to be anything extravagant, for me it can be as simple as letting someone in front of me at a checkout, or letting a car merge in front of me. It can be taking the time to stop and talk to a random person in the street, pick up a hitch hiker or stop to see if someone who has broken down needs assistance, as long as it’s safe to do so. Being kind really is not very difficult and it makes a lasting impact on the other person and more importantly models this behaviour as “normal” to our kids, which means they are more likely to repeat that behaviour in their own lives.
I think we need to spend less time drumming in the importance of academia or sporting achievements in our kids, less time focusing on the pursuit of wealth or material possessions in adults and more time focusing on being positive role models so our kids grow up to be the compassionate, caring and loving humans that we need more of in this world.
As the saying goes, “If you can only be one thing in this world, be kind”, I am pretty proud to say that I think Jaiden is well on his way to being just that.