Nov 3, 2010

Posted by in Articles | 3 Comments

Kindness Matters

Kindness Matters

“In the end, only kindness matters.” — Jewel

A few weeks ago, I got a call from my daughter’s occupational therapist (the specialist she sees to help her work on her fine motor skills). The therapist wanted to ask me if I would be open to having my daughter attend a therapy session with another child, one with severe impairments. She thought that the child might benefit from working with a kind, patient toddler and wondered if having another child at the little girl’s session would help her to be more open to some of the activities (as well as giving her a chance to work on her social skills).

I said, “Sure, why not?” and was silently gratified that the therapist had picked my child as one whose kindness and patience were exemplary. I hoped that the session would go well.

After the session, my daughter’s nanny came home and described it. She said that my daughter had really enjoyed herself and that the other child had done really well at the session. She said that, though the little girl couldn’t talk and could barely move her hands, my daughter had a wonderful time with her, and the two played well together. The little girl had done tasks that she had never before been willing to do, and the therapist was thrilled with her session.

My nanny said that she almost had to leave the room to cry after watching how well the two girls worked together.

Her description made me so proud. First of all, my daughter has come so far in her development, and it was so gratifying that she was able to help another little girl through her therapy session. I remember sessions when my daughter was younger where she would spend time crying or would refuse to try new tasks.

But, even more importantly, I was proud of the kindness my daughter showed to this new little girl. As we all know, kids aren’t always nice to each other. The slightest differences can cause a child to be singled out and treated cruelly. I know my daughter has been the recipient of such behavior, and I suspect all children have, for one reason or another. To hear that my daughter welcomed this other child with open arms made my heart swell with pride. I’d like to think that I had something to do with my daughter’s warm and open heart. I have certainly sought to teach her, from the beginning, to be kind to everyone she meets. And, perhaps, this has been reinforcing. But I suspect that most my daughter’s warmth is simply who she is; who she has always been.

Either way, I firmly believe that kindness is an incredibly important “skill” to teach children. Though we live in a community that values education and is, therefore, focused on the educational accomplishments of their children (many of the parents of the children in my daughter’s preschool class are starting to fret about what grade school their children will attend), I’ve come to feel (as a direct result of the lessons I’ve learned from having a child with special needs) that there are other skills which are potentially even more important. Kindness and compassion are high on this list. The kindness of others can open us up, give us the confidence to try new things, to be who we are. When we are kind, we affect those around us in ways we cannot know. Teaching our children to be kind can affect the world around them in ways that cannot be calculated, but in ways that make a real difference.

Bullying has been the focus of much national attention of late, as a result of a number of teen suicides directly linked to bullying. Kindness is the antithesis of bullying, and the kindness children show each other helps innoculate them against the effects of bullying. As parents, what can we do to encourage kindness in our children? It’s one of the most important things we can teach them.

  1. Love this story.

  2. Ali,
    Gramma Bette enjoyed this article and remembered her father (your Great Grandfather Bobum– Robert Ellingham Buell) had a sampler at the foot of his bed. It was made by his sisters’ Sunday School class and pictured a cross with sun rays behind it and leading up to it, many roads. Below it read “So many roads, so many ways. Of them all, only kindness pays.”

    I remember Bobum saying often when we were growing up, “When I get to Heaven, the only question God will ask is ‘Did I love enough?’” It sounds like his Great Great Grand Daughter is being given the skills to be, and is by nature, a good deal like him.

    xo MJ

  3. Wow, what a wonderful story, Mary Jo! Thanks so much for sharing it (and for sharing the article with my grandmother). Love you!
    Ali

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