Happiness. That is perhaps the most common answer when parents or anyone who cares deeply about children are asked what, above all else, they want for them in life. “I just want them to be happy”. And of course that is a lovely thing, and an important one. But we would like to throw another priority out on the table. Our top pick, our 'above all else', wish for children is kindness. For them to experience kindness and offer kindness. Now and in their future.
Why kindness? Because it comes straight from the heart, and touches the heart. It is about taking action but also about feeling. It connects us, grows us, and lights us up from within. It just plain old makes people feel good, both to be the recipient of the kindness, and the bearer of it. It is in fact a genuine path to happiness! (Two wishes for the price of one).
Of course we want our wee ones to be happy, and grow into big happy ones, but just imagine if they also grow into kind big ones. Kind people who do kind things, use kind words, and attract kindness in return? That's the stuff of a very bright future.
One of the 'hiccups' with happiness is that it is often pinned on something outside of the individual, and with an if, or a when, attached: “They’ll be happy IF they land a good job”, “Happiness will come WHEN they get that pay rise”. That's not the case with kindness. It doesn’t need to wait, and is not dependent on circumstance. All of us can be kind at any time, in any setting, even if we own very little.
But is this a realistic hope for our children? Absolutely, IF we lay the foundations now. If we understand that how we treat them is the blueprint they have for how to treat others. If our children grow up soaked in kindness, then that will be their ‘default mode’. It will be what they experience, expect, and offer out to others. They won't just 'do' kindness on occasion, they will BE kind people. And chances are very high that they'll have very happy times as they walk the kindness path.
We are their models of kindness. How we are with our children is crucial, but we also know they never 'miss a beat'. If we're kind to them but are short, sharp and impatient with our team mates, our children notice. If we are dismissive of any adult who we meet in our setting they notice.
To model kindness we really need to embody it. Offer it to everyone. Do kind things, use kind words, and when we attract kindness in return we can share those stories with the children. We can help them see that kindness is an action but also a feeling. Their immersion in such kind-full settings will make kindness a choice they make, but on the other hand, one they don't have to think too hard about. It will be the way that makes sense for them. And not just for them, but for all of those around them too.
It’s the only thing worth doing in the world… to make the world a kinder place. There’s nothing more important than kindness - Karen Armstrong