When it comes to kids, I believe that our job as adults, is to help them figure out who they are and then give them the tools to be successful with whatever qualities they were born with.
To achieve this, I believe we should teach them to respect themselves and each other.
Respect = compassion, acceptance, awareness & self-discipline = Kindness
The early years are when children develop their self-image. They develop this image from the information they receive, mostly from the adults in their lives. At the same time, they are trying to achieve their number-one goal: social recognition, i.e. attention. Everything they do, they do not to be good or bad; rather, they do it to see if it fulfills that goal of getting noticed. And if it does, they will repeat the behavior. Then, the feedback they receive when they are noticed is the information from which they build a self-image.
Many people do a great job of using positive, encouraging words when a child is behaving appropriately. It is during difficult moments that tempers flare and word choices can cause children to think poorly of themselves. Words cast out in anger can demean and embarrass a child, stripping away at his self-love. In that same difficult moment, carefully chosen words can open a window to trust and respect by helping that child feel competent and valued while teaching him an alternative behavior.
When a child is behaving inappropriately, we can remind ourselves that this is a golden opportunity to teach. Take a deep breath, allow ourselves a moment to find our place of grace and calm, so we can have a thoughtful, productive conversation with a child. Problem solve together and then encourage him go try again and thank him for his efforts. By using a moment of inappropriate behavior to teach self-awareness, problem solving and compassion, we are contributing to that child’s development of a strong, positive self-image.
In thinking clearly about the words we choose, we can have a profound positive impact on a child’s future. When we teach children to respect themselves and others, they grow up with self-confidence and compassion, and then I believe the world will be filled with Kindness.
Baileys Harbor, Wis.