We live in a world where words like "bullying", "bombing", "gun shootings", "attacks" have become rampant and a part of our everyday lexicon. How much ever you try to shield your children and even yourself, undesired behavior lurks in the corner, right by the alley even in the school corridors.
How do you in this world, talk to your children about kindness and empathy?
Educators have increasingly started to believe that children need to be taught "empathy" to cultivate kindness.
If kids learn to understand how others think and feel, they will better understand how their choices affect them and their peers. Ideally, they'll grow up with a consciousness that rejects hostility and violence.
One of my favorite ways to nurture kindness is to create a "kind room" or a "kind moment". Your kind room or kind moment can exist anywhere. In the park, the library or even at home. You can be kind to people, to animals or even to books. This makes kindness all-pervasive and not restricted to a particular place or a thing or a person.
Your kind place or kind moment are places and times where kids have to reflect on what others may feel which may cause them to behave a certain way.
Much like our meditation rooms, where we delve into our ownselves, in our kindness rooms we delve into the others. We put ourselves in someone else's shoes and reflect on why they behave the way they do.
I've learned the hard way that empathy is not judging but being present to what is going on for the other person. Yes, it is putting ourselves in someone else's shoes and it is guessing feelings (emotions) and what it is that is important to them - a value or Universal Need. "Are you sad because you want respect?" is an empathy guess. We can teach empathy by giving it to children even when they are acting in ways we don't enjoy. In this way they gain trust and learn. In this way we are modeling what we'd like them to do for others. I believe adding the connection to the Need is essential.
This is a great step in realizing that we don't cause other people's feelings. This takes out blame and opens our hearts to act compassionately.