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Kindness is Captivating

We all need more examples of kindness in the world, and in my work as a school counselor, I attempt to teach children to be kind because it’s the right thing to do. If children are only kind when they know someone is watching or because they hope to be recognized for their kindness we’re missing the mark.

My message to students is “Be kind, especially when it’s hard.” It’s easy to be nice when others treat us well or when we get exactly what we want. However, my hope is that children will learn to pause and make good choices even when it’s not easy. That’s where we come in, because children must be taught how to do this.

Ironically, this is as much a challenge for adults as it is for kids. I teach our students to consider how it might make others feel when they run out to recess holding hands with their best friend or consistently pick the same partner for group work during class. These are not inherently mean behaviors, yet they can have a negative effect on others. They exclude. I challenge you (and me) to consider your own actions. Have you gone out of your way to introduce yourself to a new parent at your child’s school or do you cling to those who are already an established part of your friend group? Are you modeling inclusivity by inviting a variety of students to have playdates with your children or are there certain students you encourage your children to avoid? Do you put more effort into maintaining relationships with the parents of children who are popular? Children are keen observers, so if we want to raise human beings who are considerate of others we must practice what we preach.

When your children come home and identify other students as “mean,” help them take an empathetic stance instead of encouraging them to write the student off. Saying something like, “I know there have been times I haven’t been as nice as I should have been. Maybe you can give him/her a second chance?”

Encourage your children to stand up for themselves, but don’t foster arrogance in them, because we all have areas in which we need to grow. Give others the benefit of the doubt, express gratitude, and be kind.

Dr. Carmen Anderson is a School Counselor at St. Mary’s School, a private International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, located in south Orange County, dedicated to providing the best education possible for Preschool, Elementary and Middle School students. Carmen Anderson earned her B.S. degree in Psychology from Santa Clara University and later her M.A./Psy.D in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University. For more information about St. Mary’s School, visit www.smaa.org.

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