Raising Kids Who Are Kind

Posted September 26, 2014

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Harvard’s Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common Project “aims to strengthen the abilities of parents and caretakers, schools, and community members to develop caring, ethical children. (They’re) working to make these values live and breathe in the day-to-day interactions of every school and home.”  At All Seasons, we focus on cultivating a community of kindness and caring. We live in a culture that values achievement over caring, and sometimes it feels like we are swimming upstream when we choose to be kind over being powerful. Amongst all the research, one thing is clear: Kindness and empathy must be taught. Making Caring Common presents five strategies to raise moral, caring children: 1. Make caring for others a priority. It’s important for parents and teachers to model this behavior. We also must hold children to high ethical standards, including staying true to their word and honoring commitments, even when it’s hard. Children should also be expected to be respectful towards adults, even when tired, angry, or distracted. Phrases like, “The most important thing is that you are kind” can really hammer this home. 2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude. Research shows that people who regularly practice gratitude are more likely to be compassionate, forgiving and helpful. To implement this, provide regular opportunities to express gratitude, such as at dinnertime or at bedtime. Don’t reward children for every act of helpfulness, such as helping around the house or helping a friend – these things should be expected. Reward uncommon acts of kindness.  3. Expand your child’s circle of concern. Children care about their own small circle of friends and family; the goal is to help them care about someone outside of their own circle as well. To help children achieve this, expect them to be polite and friendly with all people, even waiters or the mail carrier. At All Seasons, we expand children’s circles of concern through our relationships with the seniors. Ask your children about their favorite senior, and encourage acts of kindness. 4. Model kindness and moral behavior. Children learn their values by watching adults who are important to them. Think through dilemmas out loud with your children so they can hear how you problem solve with kindness. You can also model caring by volunteering with your child. 5. Guide children in managing hard feelings. We need children to know that it is okay to feel angry, sad, or frustrated. We also need to teach them how to cope with these feelings. Practice helping your child calm down and express his or her feelings when upset, and model your own coping skills for tough feelings when appropriate. It is important to remember that “Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood.” Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/07/18/are-you-raising-nice-kids-a-harvard-psychologist-gives-5-ways-to-raise-them-to-be-kind/

A Story for Caregivers…

Posted September 22, 2014

The children are back, and it feels so great to have them here!  The children are getting accustomed to the rhythms of our days.  Most know what to do when they arrive at school, though may need reminders.  Those who initially resisted our beginning-of-the-day duties are reluctantly participating.  “I don’t want to wash my hands… go potty… put on my jacket…”  “That’s just what we do at school” is usually a satisfactory answer.

Our morning routine of visiting the grandmas and grandpas will soon become second nature.  Already, most of the children walk into Willow Cove (the name for memory care) and begin making their way around the circle to shake hands.  It is so touching to see these little ones greeting and receiving such warm welcomes from the grandmas and grandpas.  For some children, shaking hands and making eye contact comes very naturally.  For others, it is truly a brand new skill that is no different than zipping jackets and will require a lot of repetition.

Speaking of repetition and at the risk of sounding trite, there is a story called The Butterfly’s Struggle that many of you know, but is worth re-reading.  As a parent and an educator, my natural inclination is to help.  Helping is at the core of who I am and at the core of what I have done professionally for over twenty years.

Last week, as Sarah played a game called “Who’s Missing” with the children, one little boy got stuck guessing which of his friends was hiding out of sight.  After a few moments of silence, I couldn’t stand it any longer and gave him a big clue.  Sarah said, “Thank you, Amy, for figuring that out for us.”  I catch myself (or my colleagues catch me) doing this several times each week.  All I know is that I can’t stand to watch anyone struggle with anything for long.  As this story illustrates so beautifully, sometimes standing back and allowing the struggle to occur is the only way for one to make it successfully to the next stage.

 

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly.  One day a small opening appeared.  He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to squeeze its body through the tiny hole.  Then it stopped, as though it was unable to go any further.

The man decided to help the butterfly.  He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bits of cocoon.  The butterfly emerged easily, but its body was swollen and wings were shriveled.

The man continued to watch it, expecting that any minute the wings would enlarge and expand enough to support the body.  Neither happened.  In face, the butterfly spend the rest of its life crawling around.  It was never able to fly.

What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the struggle required by the butterfly to get through the opening was a way of forcing the fluid from its body into the wings so that it would be ready for flight.

 

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives.  Going through life with no obstacles cripples us.  We will never be as strong as we could have been without struggle.  Without struggle, we can never fly.