Let’s face it, it’s been a rough year. With so much tragedy, devastation, anger, hate, division, and just plain scary stuff all around us, it’s easy for adults, let alone kids, to lose faith in humanity and feel afraid and helpless. I think one thing we can all agree on is that the world is in desperate need of more kindness.
You may be familiar with this quote from the late, beloved Fred Rogers:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers' . . . To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.
Arguably our most important job as parents is to raise “helpers” - kind, caring human beings to stand up against the meanness, hatred, anger and fear around us. Yet, it seems many of us are not doing a great job making kindness a priority in our everyday lives, at least according to our kids.
In a study at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, 80% of kids surveyed said their parents care more about their achievements over whether they are being kind. They were also three times more likely to agree with the statement “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member.” Trying to live up to parents’ achievement expectations also increases stress and depression and “makes kids less happy”.
Conversely, research consistently shows the enormous psychological and physical health benefits of being kind. Kind people have stronger relationships, are less stressed, more confident, more grateful, and are ultimately healthier and happier - and even live longer! In other words, teaching and valuing kindness is not only important for our schools, communities and world, it’s also integral to our kids own well-being.
But simply lecturing our kids on the importance of being kind is not enough. We must both talk the talk and walk the walk, says Mary Gordon, an internationally recognized empathy and parenting expert. “Kindness isn’t taught, it’s learned. In order to be kind, you have to experience it at home." Likewise, Patty O’Grady, PhD, an expert in neuroscience and positive psychology says, “Children and adolescents do not learn kindness by only thinking about it and talking about it. Kindness is best learned by feeling it so that they can reproduce it.”
While kindness and giving should be a natural part of what we do every day of the year, the upcoming holiday season provides the nudge many of us need to refocus our hearts, minds and actions on what’s truly important. To help you get started, we invite you to participate in the first ever CertifiKID KINDness Challenge! Print out our KINDness Challenge board and work together as a family to complete as many of the 25 activities as you can between now and the end of the year. Tip: These would make great Advent Calendar stuffers, too!
To download a full-size printable version, click HERE. (Note: You must download to your computer first before printing in order for the board to print as a full letter-size document).
Kindness is contagious! Encourage others to get involved by sharing photos of your acts of kindness on your social media accounts (or, post on our CertifiKID DC/Baltimore or National Facebook pages) using the tag #CertifiKIDKINDnessChallenge (We will surprise some of our challenge participants with little acts of kindness of our own, so don't forget to make your photos public so we can find them!).
Nurturing kindness and compassion in our children and empowering them with tangible ways to make a difference has never been more important. In this often overwhelming world, even the smallest act of kindness can make a huge difference. When we're kind to someone, we are sending the message that their life matters. And that one small act has the potential to start a ripple effect of generosity as people are inspired to 'pay it forward'. Let's join together to transform our homes, schools and communities with KINDness this holiday season and beyond.
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