"Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and underrated agent of human change." ~Bob Kerrey
According to Webster's Dictionary, kindness is a noun: a person, place, or thing. However, Moms, I think we would all agree it is most powerful when it becomes a common, household VERB! So, how can we increase empathy and compassion in our children? A few ideas come to mind.
It seems to me there are certain times of the year when it is natural to complete random acts of kindness. Christmastime is one of those seasons. In fact, sharing and giving to others are things I treasure most each December.
What We Do: In our home, when the advent calendar comes out, we place small cards (business card sized) in each daily compartment. There are three cards in total. The first card says "You've been RACK'd" (Random Act of Christmas Kindness). This card goes to the person receiving the RACK. The second card is the "action card." Action cards say things like: show a kind gesture to someone, write a note, complete an act of service, make a gift, bake/buy a treat, leave cash! As you can see, many of these are cost-free deeds , but some are monetary in value, too. The third card is the "person card." Some of the people cards include a family member, a neighbor, a close family friend, a person at work/school, or a random stranger.
How it Works: Each day one of us pulls the set of three cards out of the advent pocket. Just like that, the RACK goes into action! One time, Adam pulled "Leave a Cash Surprise" for "A Person at Work/School." So, as he left his Chemistry class, he put the "You've Been RACK'd" card with a $5 bill on his seat and walked out. Did he know who would get it? Nope. But, was he sure he made someone's day? You bet! On a day that Derek had pulled "Show a Kind Gesture" to "A Random Stranger," he was not sure what he was supposed to do. Neither was I. I LOVE that part. In fact, these kinds of days have grown to be some of my favorite ones because embedded in our minds and hearts is the search for someone to whom we can show kindness. As it turned out, while we stood in line at Winco, buying our groceries, a sweet grandma was slowly bagging up hers. Derek walked over and began to help her. By the time we bagged our items and headed to the parking lot, she had just opened her trunk. We stopped and helped her get her bags loaded into her car. By the time we placed our bags in our car and sat in our seats, we realized we didn't give her the RACK card. That, too, led to a wonderful conversation. The "cards" are just the catalyst. Seeing (and often times not seeing) the reaction of those touched by our action of kindness is the pay-off.
Over the years through my teaching experience, I have met some very bright children. And, you can imagine, there are plenty of those who struggle with learning and retaining information. Academic strength and vigor are tremendously valuable. And, yet, a world filled with only bright, problem-solving, creative geniuses would be left lacking. The balance of learning and love is a critical one.
These days, when I meet with homeschooling families, the objective is to check on academic pacing and record evidence of educational growth. Students are proud and quick to show me their excellent math test scores and detailed explanatory essay. Homeschool moms share their content struggles and seek advice in teaching various concepts. As our meetings go on, I listen to the fun field trip adventures and watch videos of students playing musical instruments or learning a new dance routine. It's all good! Lately, though, I have been thinking about adding a compassion assignment. Why limit kindness to its noun status? My goal is to make a VERB of this word - all year long!
Do you see where I am going here? I bet you do. Why aren't we teaching Random Acts of Kindness ALL YEAR LONG?! Filling the world with empathetic and compassionate people should be listed as one of our target goals. To accomplish this, we must be inserting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) lessons into our weekly plans. We must search for these small and tiny opportunities on a regular basis. Often, church groups, scout groups, and other organizations band together to complete powerful and significant acts of kindness. Awesome! However, some of the most impactful acts of kindness are the unspoken and anonymous ones. Seeing siblings randomly doing something sweet "just because" warms any mother's heart. So, how are we intentionally teaching and practicing these skills in our homes? If you are one of the few and most fortunate moms, perhaps your children are just naturals. For most of us, however, that is not the case. Using a tool, such as the RAK cards I have made, may motivate your children and you!
The Challenge: Use my cards, create some of your own, or embrace a tool that would work for your family. Take out your lesson plan book. Pick a morning this week and insert a lesson or read a book about Random Acts of Kindness. Discuss the importance of these character traits and brainstorm as many ideas as you can with your children on how to implement such behavior. Make a list of potential people and possible action items. Then DO kindness!
In no time, your family will be treating kindness as the VERB is was meant to be.
Please share your stories with me. You can find me on most social media platforms. And, I actually read my emails! For more encouragement, feel free to connect with me through my website. Let's be friends!
Melissa Webb is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
Author: Melissa Webb
CA Credentialed Teacher