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Kindness Matters

November 30, 2017
By Heidi Maness Hartwiger - Natural Parent, Natural Child Series , OVParent

Voices escalate in the playroom. The happy hum turns ugly. You call from the kitchen, "OK, kids: Be kind." The battle is underway before you reach the playroom. "I thought I told you to be kind!" you say. The kids glare at you, the space alien who doesn't speak their language.

So, when we ask our children to be kind, do they really understand? Kids are observant, but how often do they have opportunities during a regular day to witness kindness?

Saying "thank you" is becoming a lost art. Opportunities for daily kindness actually exist, however. I hold doors open for people. That's what I do. Occasionally someone young or old opens a door for me. I smile and say, "You are so kind. Thank you." The other day a surprised gentleman replied: "You are welcome. I was afraid I might offend you."

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The other day I stopped by the grocery for a jug of milk. Crossing the parking lot was a young mother with an unhappy toddler, an infant and an overflowing grocery cart. In this chaos, the mom seemed unflappable. Returning to my car, I saw the open trunk and her unattended basket of groceries. Still with the sleeping infant snuggled in the chest carrier, the mother patiently soothed her toddler, settling him in his car seat. I asked if I could be her extra pair of hands with the groceries. She smiled. "You would do that for me? Oh thank you, thank you!" These kids will thrive under the umbrella of her kindness.

Recently, natural disasters with catastrophic consequences dominated media coverage. We learned of people in devastating personal circumstances helping others. People assisted distressed animals and livestock.

Sometimes media saturation of disasters causes secret anxiety in children. Family conversations about kindness in adversity might help defuse worries.

Thank goodness there is no cutoff age for learning kindness. Remember the contagious yawning game? Start spreading smiles. Give a genuine compliment beyond "Good job" or "Nice work." Be specific. In turn, graciously accept a compliment. As a family, compose a kindness idea list. A smile or a cheerful "Good morning!" is a simple beginning.

Would you like literary backup to support your kindness discussions with younger kids? "What Does it Mean to be Kind?" by Rana DiOrio (Little Pickle Press, 2015) provides information that helps clarify what kindness is all about. This book is for kids 4-8, as is "Kindness Counts," by Brian Smith (Boystown 2016). A man demonstrates surprise kindness at an ice cream shop when he pays the bill for the family behind him. In turn, the grateful father pays for the next family. Seeing kindness in action motivates the little boy in the story to act in ways of kindness at school.

Maybe being kind helps us focus less on our troubles. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could make kindness the new normal?

Heidi Maness Hartwiger a Wheeling native, is a writer, teacher and storyteller. She is a mother of four and a grandmother of five.



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