“When faced with the choice of being right or being kind, choose kindness, and you’ll be right every time.” ~ Richard Carlson
The above image offers a couple of reminders about the wisdom of teaching kindness instead of anti-bullying. Taking into account how easy it is to focus on the negative (especially in today’s world), as well as the inherent goodness I feel in kids, I certainly believe it’s kindness that needs nurturing, not greater attention to problems; its kindness that needs confirming in the spirit of kids and drawn out with compassion and encouragement.
Let’s show kids that we see them instead of focusing so much on the consequences of not being seen. For bullying is a symptom of not having their innate goodness loved and encouraged.
Consider for a moment: how many ways are we unfair, disrespectful or even cruel to kids by the very act of not listening to them, neglecting their emotions, needs and dreams, and by expecting them to be anyone but themselves—pushing them to act in ways incongruent with their deeper nature? How many ways do we unwittingly trim the edges of their authenticity with our fears, limits and expectations? How many ways do children absorb the toxicity of our unhealed wounds, unsettled relationships and unhealthy systems?
How many ways do we bully them, subtly or overtly?
“Multiple research studies on emotional contagion have found that it only takes milliseconds for emotions like enthusiasm and joy, as well as sadness, fear, and anger, to pass from person to person, and this often occurs without either person realizing it. Kids especially pick up on their parents’ moods. If we are stressed, distracted, down, or always-on-the-verge-of-frustrated, kids emulate these moods. When we are peaceful and grounded, kids model off that instead.” ~ Read more here.
Naturally, kids are going to act out. They will fight back and fight against each other. We so often focus solely on the behaviour while forgetting to attune and tend to the deeper motivation; we dwell on their No, yet bypass their deeper Yes.
And this Yes is the biological need for love. The ones who bully the most cry for love the loudest. Hurt people hurt people. These kids need to be reminded of who they are. They need to connect with positive role models who embody patience, curiosity and warmth. They need far less punishment and far more empathy—someone who can feel the hurt beneath their bullying.
“New research at Stanford University encouraged middle school teachers to take on an ‘empathetic mindset’ when students were being disciplined. The study found that the number of pupils who were suspended across the academic year halved, from 9.6% to 4.8%.” ~ Read more here.
We still need to draw the line, say No, and be firm, especially in acute situations; but these responses need to be in service of giving what will serve most—our loving presence. Too much punishment and focus on “anti” and we can easily forget what matters, what makes a lasting difference, and who these kids are in their heart of hearts.
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” ~ Mark Twain
Ultimately, we create a climate of kindness by being kind and standing up for kindness. We create it by the little things we do: listening to a struggling child; being curious about and following her dreams; letting children move their bodies as needed; teaching what is developmentally appropriate (and nothing beyond); and letting kids play—a lot.
And, equally important, we create a climate of kindness by practicing self-care, by being kind to ourselves—listening to our hearts, needs, desires, feelings; doing things that bring us joy and healing those wounds that keep us from tending to our spirit, and the spirit of others. Indeed, when we are kind to ourselves—when grounded and centered—, it’s easier to offer kindness, and all its derivatives, to others.
To care for others we must first care for ourselves. To remember who kids really are and lead from kindness, we must take time to remember the kindness we innately are.
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Check out Vince’s book: Let the Fire Burn ~ Nurturing the Creative Spirit of Children, A Children’s Book for Adults