It’s a good idea to have your children start performing small acts of kindness. It’s a fun, easy way that they can begin forming new friendships and enriching the relationships they already have. Small acts of kindness include giving small gifts, helping without being asked, and giving compliments.
Giving compliments is the easiest, and you can have them start right away. Is there someone in your child’s peer group whom they like or admire? Someone who’s smart, or well-dressed, or kind, for example? Betcha they’d like to be told. Teach your kids that when they have a nice thought about someone, they should get used to saying it out loud. I have made it a habit to give compliments all day long, even to people on the street. It’s so much fun to see a stranger light up when you tell them how great they look.
“One kind word can warm three winter months,” as the Japanese saying goes. We had a special Post-It day at Phoenix once, when students and staff went around sticking notes on doors, windows and desks with compliments and words of encouragement. All day I heard thumping on the door of the music room as people stuck kind words on my door. I saved those Post-Its. They reminded me of why I loved my job, and kept me warm for a good long while.
As far as gifts go, it’s always beautiful to receive a token of someone’s appreciation, but the very best gifts are the ones that reflect a person’s interests. They prove that you’ve made the effort to get to know someone. Remember my mom’s two dogs, mentioned in Social Skills Series #2: Getting to Know Someone? They’re miniature dachshunds, and I don’t wish to exaggerate, but they’re pretty much my favourite entities in the known universe. Some of my students are aware of this. As a music teacher, I get a lot of music-themed presents from students, but my favourite student gifts are a dachshund mug and a dachshund necklace. Those kids know me and knew exactly what I would like.
You may discover that the more acts of kindness your child performs, the more they will want to be kind to others, and the better they will feel about themselves. Kindness is immediately rewarding, and once they start, they’re not going to want to stop.
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Vanessa Farkas is a writer, musician, educator, and lifetime learner who worked at the Phoenix Education Foundation as a music teacher from 2010-2018 and has left to retrain and pursue a new career as a legal assistant. Her eight years at Phoenix have left her enriched with experiences and stories, and this series blends those stories and experiences with practical advice and perspectives on helping children develop social skills. Names have been changed.