Back in January, I told you about an unexpected item on 9-year-old daughter’s Christmas list: “Donations to give to the animal shelter“. If you haven’t read the story, please pop over and do so because we’re 3/4 of the way to the next Christmas and I’m still beaming proud of her from last year. Go ahead and read it… I’ll wait.
We had known for years that our daughter had extreme amounts of compassion. When she was playing soccer when she was only 5 or so, I remember how she would stop on the field to make sure someone who fell down was okay. She put people in front of winning. Then she started volunteering at the library before she turned 6. She told us that she wanted to be able to read to the little kids that didn’t know how to read yet.
As she has grown, we’ve noticed these characteristics continue by her as well as her sister. We’re very proud of our kids and the decisions they make.
So how do we teach this to our kids?
First, we lead by example. When new neighbors move in, we make and deliver cookies. We introduce ourselves, leave our contact information and tell them which homes have children the same age as theirs. In short, we welcome them. Our kids have always been responsible for carrying the actual cookies. Involving them is key. Second, we show them examples. We point out things others do that is kind. Sometimes it is as simple as someone holding the door open for us. Other times it is acknowledging a helpful act like shoveling someone else’s sidewalk in the winter. Third, we provide opportunities for them to experience it themselves. Like the cookie delivery or helping a new student find their classroom. Of course, opportunities to donate or volunteer are a big help in driving home the point. Finally, we introduce them to shows that can teach the lesson in a fun (and subtle way). I loved watching Super Why with my girls when they were little.
Learning about kindness and acceptance isn’t just for the young. There are a lot of shows that drive the point home. Scott and I just started watching a new Netflix original called Derek. It’s referred to as a mockumentary-style comedy-drama. The setting is an elderly care facility and the main character is Ricky Gervais. I fully expected it to be a gut-busting show because everything that man creates is hilarious. Not this one… it’s thought provoking and I’ve cried at least once during each episode I have watched. Will I keep watching it? Absolutely. There are little phrases in each episode that resonate with me. In the first episode, Derek says something regarding character traits of kindness, being clever and being good looking. He explains that being a kind person is much more important than being clever or handsome. In another episode, an administrator asked Derek if he had ever been tested for Autism. Derek responded with “If I am ’tistic, would I die?” Derek asked if he would have to go to the hospital then the part that caught me off guard. “Would it change me in any way? Would I be the same person?” When the administrator responded, thinking Derek was just looking for reassurance about having the test, Derek responded with “Don’t worry about it then” and walked away. It was such a simple thought, such a simple question “Have you been tested for Autism?” yet the answers held so much weight. Derek has so much potential to teach lessons about kindness and acceptance; I hope the cast is able to move people with these stories.
Movies like Rudy, A Mile in His Shoes, Radio, Mulan to name a few along with shows like Good Luck Charlie and Glee. These have a variety of backstories that can appeal to a variety of people but the underlying message is always about kindness, compassion and acceptance.
I’m proud to say that my kids are on the right track and I am certain these life skills will take them a long way. When you have developed the ability to think beyond yourself, see the good in others despite differences and help where you can, you’re bound to go far.
What ways do you encourage (or teach) compassion, kindness and acceptance from your kids, family or friends?