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Saturday, August 13, 2011
Teaching our Children Kindness
This post is part of a series on the Seven Virtues.
Practicing the seven virtues is considered to protect one against temptation from the seven deadly sins, with each one having its counterpart. . Each of the seven heavenly virtues matches a corresponding deadly sin.
The seven virtues are Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, and Humility.
What is Kindness ?
I am forever telling my kids to be kind to each other, show some compassion. If someone gets hurt, I will tell them to have compassion, to show concern. I admit it, my kids are not perfect. If someone gets hurt they don’t necessarily laugh but they sometimes look like deer in headlights and are not sure what to say. More often or not they will say “I didn’t do it.”
So what is kindness? A key component of kindness is love. St. Paul said that "love is kind" (1Corinthians 13:4). Kindness is an expression of love. This is true true whether we speak of the kindness of God toward man (Titus 3:4) or that of man toward man (Romans 12:10)
So how do we demonstrate kindness. A kind person does not take advantage of others in their personal or business life. A kind person seeks only what is best for everyone involved. A kind person is compassionate. What does that mean? Compassion means “with passion” A compassionate person feels with the other person. They feel bad when others feel bad. A kind person helps others with their problems and woes. Even if that help consists in just listening. A kind person is shows their gratitude toward others and is thankful. A kind person is quick to forgive. So forgive your child when he he breaks that plate. They most likely were scared when they dropped it and it hit the floor. So show them some compassion. When you do this you are modeling kindness for your children.
How do we teach our Children Kindness?
We can teach our children kindness from day one. We teach them kindness by how we interact with them. When you respond to them, even as a baby, do so with compassion. A newborn does not cry to manipulate you. They cry because they have unmet needs. As a child grows, you can continue to show them kindness by being quick to forgive them when they do something. When they drop your favorite mug and break it try to be kind and show compassion. Often it is our first reaction to yell at a child for breaking something. But really, think about it. Did they mean to break it? Probably not, and it most likely scared them when they dropped it. A mug can be replaced. A child’s s spirit can not. If you treat the child with kindness they are more likely to come to you when something does happen
You see, you are your child’s best teacher and children learn best through demonstration and action. Treat everyone regardless of age, race and social background with respect. Your children watch what you do. They are watching how you treat the cashier, the mailman, the homeless man on the street. But before your child can show kindness they have to recognize how people feel. With young children it is best to teach them about feelings in general, and then teach them that everyone has feeling. Only after that can we teach them to understand when someone is sad and hurt.
There are plenty of books on kindness for you to read to or with your children. The Little Prince is one of my favorites, but there are many other childhood favorites that have at their core the value of kindness, the Velveteen Rabbit is family favorite, even if my children cry whenever I read it to them. Charlotte’s Web is a book that is a great story for teaching our children kindness. Can you think of any characters who show more kindness than Charlotte or Fern. Even the farmer’s heart softens. For older children, the Anne of Green Gables series is a great one.
Children have an innate sense of compassion and kindness. Ever watch them with their dolls and stuff animals? The best way to reinforce kindness is to praise your child when they display kindness. Thank them for being compassionate. We get more bang for our buck in our children when we reinforce the positive behavior instead of focusing on the negative behavior.
How do you teach kindness to your children?