by Danielle Hines
“Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.”–Franklin D. Roosevelt
This week was mid-term elections and it gave us all a wonderful opportunity to teach the children about civility and honoring our civic duty as Americans. But with campaigns ads all over the television and opinions are everywhere, how do we as educators and parents promote civility around a time when incivility is at a high?
Explore Moral Behavior–Use this time to teach your children about leaders who have succeeded using positive moral behavior and express your admiration for these successes because of their moral behavior. Leaders like Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., JFK, Abraham Lincoln, Malala, Jane Goodall and so many more used their beliefs on moral civility to bring people together and inspire them. There are SO many books geared towards children that are short and sweet but give them an insight on these important morally sound leaders.
Show the Importance of Empathy–This is a crucial time in your child’s development to constantly model empathy. Open communication about how and why other people might have different lives than your family’s is a way for your child to see other point’s of views and allows them to be empathetic and show kindness for people of all backgrounds. Having an open dialogue on empathy helps promote a positive relationships and prevents issues such as bullying later in their life.
Promote Positive Debate–Opinions are important and we should always feel comfortable to express them. But we as educators and parents have a duty to show our children that while opinions can be expressed, we must remain open-minded and show respect for others who might not share our same opinion. This can be easier said than done, especially around the time of political debates. At school, we sometimes model “mock debates” where the children can pick a topic (i.e. favorite animal) and they can go around and express why that animal is their favorite. We let all the children share their opinion and we model the language as adults to respect all of the opinions shared. “Wow, Johnny, I can see why you love penguins so much. I didn’t know they like to live on land and water. Thank you for sharing that with us!”
Practice Kindness–Although kindness should be spread throughout the year, November and December are wonderful months to begin a “Random Acts of Kindness” calendar with your child. These can be simple things–helping your sibling get dressed, baking cookies for the neighbor, taking the dog for a walk—or they can be bigger to serve the community like volunteering at the food bank, making floral arrangements for a nursing home, etc. The point here is to get your child to feel that feeling of giving without receiving.