My kids spend so much time at school that I often feel like their teachers have a better idea of their strengths and interests than I do.
In an effort to extinguish my mom guilt, every day I ask my kids three questions that give me a pretty good idea of how the day went.
1. What was your “glad” today? (In other words, what happened today that made you smile.)
2. What was your “sad” today?
3. What was your act of kindness today?
When I first started asking these questions three years ago to my then-kindergartener, it took a while for her to understand that being kind to someone is more than being quiet while the teacher is talking or letting a child sit by you at lunch. Kindness is what happens when you do more than is expected of you.
I was thrilled to get this email from Janet Bartley in Fargo who is giving the kids in her care a head start.
“One very snowy evening I left my yoga class at the YMCA only to find I had no scraper in my car.
A young man saw me and offered to clean my windows. He said it would be his random act of kindness for the day, which he was doing for a class at school.
As I drove away, I thought about how smart this life lesson could be for the kids we work with in our day care.
I believe a child is innately kind to his or her family and to people they know, but we need to integrate more kindness into their characters at a young age so that when a situation comes up with people they don’t know, they will act with compassion. More importantly, children will start to recognize and admire acts of kindness they experience, and make them a part of their character forever.
We decided to make February Random Act of Kindness Month. Each day during “school time” we discussed what a random act of kindness is, and gave them some examples, like my snowy eve situation. Every day we asked if they had a random act of kindness to share.
“I made my bed,” “I did the dishes,” “I cleaned up” were all very good, but we were still looking for that nonfamily kindness.
Then one day, Heather, a 3-year-old, said, “My dad did a random act of kindness! He stopped the car and helped a lady out of the snowbank.” All the kids were so proud of him.
Later, when we told her dad about it, he said he had helped a woman in her wheelchair get across Broadway, and when he got back in the car, Heather said, “Dad, that was a random act of kindness.” He was blown away that his daughter knew what that meant. His wife told him that evening that day care was working on recognizing and carrying out acts of kindness for the month.
Obviously, our emphasis at this age has been simple – smiles can brighten someone’s day, kindness doesn’t have to cost anything and being nice makes your heart feel good. We keep asking about random acts of kindness, and we are seeing our kids being nicer and kinder to each other. It is our hope that we are making a difference and that kindness becomes a big part of their forever character.”
Janet, thank you for sharing that great idea. I hope the kids you care for now will visit you in 20 years so you can see how well they turned out thanks to your acts of kindness.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo, and currently the executive director of Diva Connection Foundation. She is the mother of three kids and the wife of Bison men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.