Children and kindness in school

My daughter has been bullied for years. Starting in first grade, the word ‘bully’ started circling through conversations with parents and teachers. I refused to use it until two years later. Our goal at home was to teach our daughter to cope. We wanted her to know the difference between someone not liking her shoes, not liking her, and taunting her. I could share almost endless stories of violence other kids inflicted upon her, from being punched in the mouth, to being pinned down in the dark by boys much older, and being kicked in the head and chest. But that’s not really my goal. We know these things happen. Many that know us might be surprised to know she was kicked in the head and chest. We’ve told very few. I could talk for days about the hurtful words that are thrown at her everyday, whether because of what she brings to school, her height, or her energy. But that’s never really my goal either.

We’ve spent years trying to teach her to cope. To know the difference when someone is bullying and when someone is simply being unkind. Instead of giving her examples of each over and over, we started giving her ideas of how to react in any situation with kindness. It’s working.

Five days into the new school year, and friends have already teased her about bringing a stuffed animal to school. Her response is usually something like, “I’m good with it.” Or, “Would you like to give it a hug?” Instead of reacting out of the overwhelming feeling of defense, she offers kindness in return. She’s still hurt by the mean words. She’s still hurt because some of these kids are friends and lack support in her decisions. But she’s coping.

Each day we talk about our kind actions throughout our days, and I always like to ask if someone did something kind for my children. These make for fun dinnertime conversations.

Yesterday she told me she was shoved, probably lost in a crowd rather than something violent, and fell down a few stairs and dropped all of her papers and notebooks on the floor. In the rush to get to classes on time, all the kids nearby stepped on her and her papers while passing by. No one stopped. No one helped. She told me she stopped the tears from coming out of her eyes. Her reasoning was because she didn’t want her contacts to fall out. I’m sure she also didn’t want anyone to see her pain either.

After the next class, another little girl was pushed in the crowd and fell down four steps, dropping all of her belongings. Students stepping all over her papers, and she rushed to clear the papers before they were ruined in the crowd. My daughter saw her. And stopped. She helped this other girl pick up her papers and offered to help organize her backpack again during lunch.

After hearing both stories at dinner, I asked my daughter which one she thought she’d remember most tomorrow or in a week. She told me she’d remember stopping to help someone else. But she’ll always know no one stopped to help her. Until someone does.

All I asked of her at the end of that conversation was, always be the person that stops.

I love her energy. She is high energy in a world where the kids her age think it’s only appropriate to stand around and talk about shoes and make-up. I love the bond she has with her stuffed animal. And I’m happy to report she is not changing that because kids, friends even, can be cruel enough to let her know they think she’s immature for bringing it hidden in her backpack where she knows it keeps a smile saved just for her.

And, finally, I’m proud to know that when I’m not around, she’ll be the kid that stops to help.

Kindness matters.

Please share your stories of kindness. And continue to be kind.

Kindness Matters

I was humbled a couple of weeks ago when a friend, editor and teacher extraordinaire, I might add, took my novel, stayed up with it all night at emailed me her copy edits at 5am the following morning.

Talk about kindness.

Last week, I had the opportunity to do the same with another friend’s novel. It just landed in my lap, (Okay, he may have thrown it my way, but my lap caught it), and I sent in my copy edits for his review. I didn’t feel special. I didn’t feel amazing. I didn’t feel like I had gone out of my way, doing something I enjoy doing for someone I like and respect. But I knew how it felt to be on the receiving end, and I knew that author may have been humbled as well, thinking the simple words, thank you, might not be enough. They are, of course.

On the other side of my world, my children started school last week. On the first day, they were excited to be in new schools, with old teachers, meet new friends, have new schedules, new clothes, contacts for one, new reading glasses for another….their positive list was endless. I was amazed.

I had one rule for them, and I begged them to follow it.

Be kind.

No matter how you feel, how your day is going, what you are going through, be kind.

Do you wish to make new friends? Be kind.

Do you wish to meet new people? Be kind.

Do you want to heal old relationships? Be kind.

Would you like to get to know someone better? Be kind.

Did someone say something mean to you? Be kind. (And know you are worth more than hurtful words)

No one is perfect. But we can all be humble. I encourage my children to lift up their peers. I encourage my children to help people feel good about themselves. Many of us know how it feels to be hurt by someone’s actions or someone’s words. It can ruin a day. I ask my children to be the person that makes someone smile when they feel a frown taking over their beautiful face.

Last Friday, after three days of parties, hugs, laughter, and lots of first week of school smiles, one of my kids came home and told me something another child had said sometime during the day. It was hurtful. It was painful. It was personal. It was something I tried all weekend to let go. But I struggled. This isn’t the first time this particular child has said something hurtful to my child. No parent wants to see their child hurting.

As adults, we have to deal with stresses each day we decide, or have, to enter the world. As parents, we often expect we will send out children out into a place where dangers are prevalent, but we know they will be protected. Either by adults around them, children who adore them, or our love that will be with them when they are away from us. As children, they often expect to head out into a big world of joy, rainbows, and beautiful sunsets. A world where we all feel the same, and we only want to exist – together – in a place of joy.

It’s heartbreaking when a child climbs into a parent’s car with a somber look and sad eyes, only to say, ‘Someone hurt my feelings today.’ Sticks and stones hurt. Words will never hurt me? That couldn’t be more wrong. I sat on this one hurtful thing all weekend, thinking of the joy I’d had with the child that said this over the years. Thinking of the joy I’d given to my child. And wondering where I’d failed if I’d let something so menial bother me so much.

Bother me, it did.

My response to my child was, “What did you say?”

Be kind.

“You told me to be kind, so I said, ‘That’s sad. But okay.'”

It was sad. My child didn’t argue, didn’t fight back with another hurtful sentence, didn’t take the pain experienced and throw it back into someone else’s court.

It was sad this child felt the need to say this to my child. It was sad this child learned this was an acceptable thing to do. It was sad to know a friendship was broken – again.

But my child was humbled.

It wasn’t the first time.

Last week, when someone offered kindness with nothing expected in return, certainly wasn’t my first humbling experience either.

But both experiences reminded us the connection being humble and being kind have with one another. One exists because of the other. The other exists because there is a new view because of the other.

Kindness matters. I hope we can all make it our choice. I’m proud to say, though we are not perfect, my family, my children, will grow knowing, and maybe learning more along the way than knowing all the time, to be humble and to be kind. No matter what might be thrown at them.

Kindness matter.

Be at least a reason for someone’s smile today.