Becoming more extra-centered and less self-centered. Learning to feel with and for others. Empathy, tolerance, brotherhood. Sensitivity to needs in people and situations.
Simple kindness and friendliness is a great human value. It involves parts of other values, such as the empathy of sensitivity and the boldness of courage, but it is a very separate and different value from these. This value is also partially an extension of the value of peaceability. In peaceability we try to teach children not to hurt and to avoid conflicts. Here we teach the positive side of being a friend, acting friendly and kindly, and becoming more polite and courteous.
Friendliness and gentleness also apply to self. Children who learn to be gentle and tolerant with themselves grow up to be less stressed and more relaxed and self-secure.
Simple friendliness (based on our earlier-established criteria and definition of a value of something that helps others and diminishes hurt in others) is a profound value. Often a simple act of kindness or a word or two of extended friendship can change another person's attitude and mood for the rest of the day -- and longer.
In trying to teach kindness and friendliness to our children we once again realize that they are not lumps of clay to be molded as we choose, but seedlings -- already who they are -- ready to blossom if watered and fertilized and exposed to a lot of sunlight.
Wherever your children fit on the scale of natural kindness and friendliness to others, there is always room for improvement on this important value of life.
A friend of ours told me a story that I thought illustrated how parents can be kind and friendly to their own children and thus improve the rapport and feeling between them.
He came home from work one day, went into his "private" bathroom, and found little five-year-old Lulu, who loves trying to clean things, holding an empty cleanser can and standing over a bathtub that was overflowing with soap suds onto the carpet. He nearly reacted the way most parents would have: "Lulu! You used way too much soap! You're ruining the carpet! You should never try to do things like this without help!"
But he had some especially tender feelings in his heart that day for Lulu, and he said, "Oh, Lu, you were trying to clean Dad's tub, weren't you?"
Little Lulu looked down and said, "But Daddy, I used way too much soap!" It was a tender, warm moment that ended in a big hug.
If the father had said, "You used way too much soap," Lulu would have said, probably with some bitterness or some hurt, "But Daddy, I was just trying to clean your tub!" It would have been an unpleasant, separating moment.
Sometimes we don't need to tell our children what they did wrong. They already know. If we are kind and gentle with them and come to their defense, they will say what we would have said, and the moment will be warm and the feeling will be right.
Have a "gentleness and politeness" pact." This can create a mood of particular kindness and warmth in your home during this "month." Get together as a family as you start this month and discuss how pleasant a place the world is when people are kind and gentle. Ask the children to join you in a "pact of gentleness and politeness" for the month. Explain that this will mean a commitment of two "do's" and two "don't's."
Do's:Be polite -- say, "please," "thank you," and "excuse me," and look for chances to extend acts of courtesy.
Smile and ask, "How are you?" Expect a real answer to the question and listen to it.
Don'ts:Don't yell or raise your voice or be critical of another.
Don't say anything critical -- neither of someone else nor of yourself. (No "I'm so stupid" or "I can't do anything right.")
Talk frequently about how things are going, how people feel, how hard it is to remember, and so on.
Decide where your child stands in his natural abilities to be kind and friendly. Know what your challenge is with each child. There is nothing quite like the joy one feels as a result of kindnesses to those who really need and appreciate it, whether it be a good deed for one little old man across the street or kindness on a more grander scale. However, kindness and friendliness are never as easy as they sound. Some children show their insecurities by pretending to be popular but putting other children down in ways that are outright cruel, while other shrinking violets and painfully shy children spend all their time wondering why no one likes them. Others are genuinely well adjusted and naturally look for ways to be kind and friendly to those around them. Try to determine where your child fits in his natural abilities to be kind and friendly so that you know where to begin.
Teach by example. Give your children clear and specific models for friendliness, kindness, and politeness. This value is one that cannot be overdone. During the month be extra friendly and polite to everyone, including your children. Use "please," "thank you," and "excuse me" profusely. Say nice things. Practice Emily Post etiquette in everything from opening doors and holding chairs for women to setting the table in a proper and special way. Even help children with their own jobs. Smile a lot.
Watch children respond. Once they get over the suspicion that you're putting them on or rehearsing for a part in some play, they will begin to mirror what they see in you.
Teach your child the value of relationships, not only with friends but with family. This will increase their appreciation of close "blood" relationships. During an evening meal every few months take the time to reinforce the importance of having friends and being a friend. Foster and nourish the idea that even though outside friends are very important, the best friends they will ever have should be their brother or sister (as well as his or her parents). Childhood friends will come and go, but family members will last throughout life. Those friendships should be nurtured and treated with care. You could even try a private game among family members. When one child is persecuting another or arguing or calling names in a way that he would not think of doing with a friend, have the persecuted child say the word friend, which is a code word to the other child to lay off and begin treating him a little more like a friend. Although it may not work at the moment, it will help to raise the awareness of what they're doing. (The same game works for parents who talk to their children in less than glowing terms, or vice versa.) You could even suggest that when a child is angry or being rude to another family member, an onlooking child has a responsibility to walk up to the child being attacked, put his arm around him, and say, "Don't talk that way to one of my best friends."
Review the activities and stories that go along with this months value. Make sure everyone in your family understands the value so they can see how they can apply it in their own lives and situations.
Talk about the Monthly Value every morning and remind your family to look for opportunities to use the value throughout the day. They may also observe how others don't understand the value. Get your children to share their experience with the value each day at the dinner table or before you go to bed. Be sure to share your experience each day as well. It will help your children know that you are thinking about the value too.
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