By: Rebecca Macsovits, Author of Guion The Lion
As parents and teachers, we encourage children to “be kind.” After all, kindness is a quality we all appreciate and hope children embrace. But, what is kindness really? And how do we encourage kindness in children?
Kindness, by dictionary definition, is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Mark Twain defined kindness as “the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends. It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes.” Barbara De Angelis pointed out, “Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who received them, and they bless you, the giver.”
To me, kindness starts with empathy. While it’s easy for me to criticize the world from my perspective, it is so enlightening to step into someone else’s shoes -- try to feel what they are feeling and see the world from their point of view. With empathy, comes understanding, which produces kindness. Kindness is setting judgments aside, accepting someone for who they authentically are--differences and all, and loving them from a place of empathy.
In the world we live in, it’s more important than ever to encourage empathy and kindness. Try these tips for cultivating kindness in your home or classroom:
Kindness is contagious. Children learn kindness both from watching our interactions with others and experiencing kindness from us. How are you spending your time, interacting with others and treating your children or students? Be sure that your actions align with the values you are seeking to teach. Volunteering at a local charity, taking dinner to a family in need and responding with kind words (when you really don’t want to) are simple ways to model acts of kindness in your home.
Like I said earlier, kindness begins with empathy. Our kids need to get out of their comfort zones to see that people who are different from them exist and have the opportunity to connect with those with different backgrounds and perspectives. This can be as simple as going somewhere new, starting a new activity or sitting by a new student!
Teach your kids or students the concept of thinking before they speak to or judge others. Simply ask them to consider how they might feel if someone said or did the same thing to them. Young kids (and adults) need reminders about putting themselves in someone else’s shoes!
Kindness is best expressed in action. If your child or student goes out of their way to do something for you or someone else, acknowledge their act of kindness. Likewise, point out ways that others act kindly toward them.
Children’s books, like Guion The Lion, can be a great tool for teaching kindness. Even at a young age, reading books about kindness allows children to see the impact of kindness illustrated in a fictional story and its characters. "If You Plant a Seed" by Kadir Nelson, “We’re All Wonders” by R.J. Palacio, and “The Monster Who Lost His Mean” by Tiffany Strelitz Haber are a few other children’s books we love that present messages about empathy and kindness.
Guion the Lion is a children’s book about an imaginative little lion who sees things differently from his friends. Using colorful illustrations and charming animal characters, the story portrays that new perspectives can open the door to unexpected fun. My vision for Guion The Lion is to present a message of kindness, generosity and adventure to support social emotional learning at an early age.