Sunday, March 14, 2010

New Best Friend (Teaching Kindness 1)

I have tried to raise kids who are kind. Have I been successful? My answer depends on what day you ask me. But a recent conversation with another parent reminded me of three times when I thought I had lost the battle. (I’ll describe these in separate posts so it won’t get too long.)

When my daughter was in first grade, her teacher called me one afternoon to tell me that Mia had been part of a group of children who were cruelly teasing a classmate about his severe allergies and the accommodations that were necessary to keep him safe. I couldn’t believe that MY child would act like that. (Can anyone relate?)

I sat Mia down in her time out chair and stood over her with my finger jabbing in the air toward her little chest. I reminded her of all the things that kids might tease her about, like being Chinese, or being adopted, or having an autistic brother. By now her bottom lip was quivering. (This was not my kindest moment as a parent.)

Then I laid out her consequences. “Peter is now your new best friend. If anyone teases him, you will defend him. For the next two weeks, you will sit in this chair for five minutes every morning before you go to school, and you will plan three nice things to do for him that day. Then you will come home after school and tell me about doing them. Every night you will sit in this chair for five minutes and make a list of ways to be a good friend, not just to Peter but to everyone.”

I told the teacher what I was doing and she made a class project out of listing ways to be good friends (not singling out Mia or any other individual). Everyone got into it and had fun. The list was posted on the classroom wall.

And Mia did become Peter’s new best friend.

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