Guest post by Audrey Monke
“Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree.” —Marian Wright Edelman
In our cut-throat, competitive culture, where assertiveness and achievement are glorified and valued, I believe the importance of focusing on kindness as a character trait is often overlooked. There are anti-bullying posters and speakers at most schools, but where is the message about the powerfully positive impact of kindness?
All youth development professionals, including teachers, coaches, and camp staff, know that wording things positively and telling kids what we DO want them to do is far more effective than a list of “don’ts” and “nos.” So, why hasn’t this message translated into how we teach children to treat one another? We’re talking with children a lot about not bullying each other, but we’re not talking with them enough about what we want them to be doing instead — which is, of course, to treat each other with respect and kindness. I propose that as youth development professionals we flip the “anti-bullying” message into a “pro-kindness” one. And, to that end, we need to teach our staff and parents specific ways to teach kids kindness.
Here are a few specific, easy ways to model and practice kindness in your home or at your camp:
- Get kids to focus on kindnesses that they have seen by asking them to point out kind acts they have witnessed or done.
- Brainstorm with kids kind things they can do for others and help them follow through. Focus on small, easy kindnesses rather than huge things.
- Talk with kids about how they feel after someone has done something kind for them or after they’ve done something kind for another person.
Being a considerate, kind person who thinks about others is a great character trait that helps children form good relationships and leads to a happier life as an adult. And what should we say to super competitive parents who want their children to succeed at all costs, even if it means cheating and being mean to others? It could be helpful for them to know that research has clearly shown that kind people are happier people, and happier people, in turn, are more successful in life. In jobs and in future relationships, kindness will take our children “further in life than any college degree.” Focusing on kindness needs to be a higher priority for everyone who cares about children.
“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” — John Wooden
Audrey Monke, with her husband Steve, has owned and directed Gold Arrow Camp (Lakeshore, California) for the past twenty-four years. They have five children (ages nine to nineteen) who keep their life camp-like year round. Audrey has been a member of ACA since 1989 and was President of WAIC (Western Association of Independent Camps) from 2007–2010. She writes about camp and parenting at sunshine-parenting.com .