To that end, my wife and I are trying very hard to raise three boys who are a benefit to the world instead of detriments. One way we’re doing that is to impart the importance of compassion, empathy, and kindness to our kids. And that’s not always an easy feat.
Will likes to help people, but he’s only 7 years old and doesn’t fully understand the impact of his words or the importance of tact. Such was the case during the first week of school when he mistakenly thought his idea of helping a girl in his class was to give her unsolicited fashion advice and critique her wardrobe. He thought he was helping, but we had to explain to him how hurtful words can be — even when that hurt is unintentional.
First we explained why it’s not proper to criticize the way anyone dresses because it hurts feelings, and then we had him apologize the following day. But we also saw an opportunity to take things a step further. In addition to apologizing to the girl, we also asked him to figure out something nice he could say to her and give her a compliment.
He was hesitant at first, but he did it. Will told her he really liked her glasses. And then he said “Mom, dad — she smiled. She was really happy and she said thank you. I liked making her smile because I never meant to hurt her feelings the first time.”
And just like that, “One Good Thing” was born.
We told him since he liked complimenting her, he should do it again — except this time to someone else. And he did. Every single day for the last three weeks, Will has gone into school and given someone an unsolicited compliment. He has complimented boys, girls, and teachers. He has positively commented on Minion jackets, cool jeans, how someone got an answer correct in class, and dinosaur shirts other kids have been wearing. He’s complimented friends as well as kids with whom he doesn’t usually talk.
When he gets off the bus, the first thing he does is tell us who the recipient of his “One Good Thing” was, and the specifics of the compliment. It’s become his routine, and a way to inject some positivity into the world.
I won’t lie and pretend he’s an angel who did this without resisting a bit. At one point he rolled his eyes and said “Why do I have to keep doing this all the time?” So we spent an hour or so talking about Karma, and the idea that the good you put out into the world will come back to you tenfold when you need help from others. He looked at me like I was crazy.
But guess what? He no longer thinks I’m a nut.
Will brought his beloved arrowhead to school earlier this month for show and tell, but accidentally dropped it while showing it to friends. It shattered into a million pieces. Will’s art teacher told him she’d do her best to fix it, but it was beyond repair.
However, she had other plans.
She knew Will got the arrowhead at Clark’s Trading Post on a trip this summer with his grandparents. So she graciously took the time to call up Clark’s in New Hampshire and buy another arrowhead for him on her own dime. However, she was talking to one of the owners of the store and upon hearing her story, he generously agreed to send her a new one at no cost.
Boom. Karma explained in a way my meager words ever could.
I’m not a raging hippie or a New Age guru. But I absolutely believe the good you put out into the world is palpable. And contagious. I know it sounds naive to believe the world would be a better place if everyone just did a little more good, but that’s OK. It might be naive, but I also think there’s some truth to it. So I’ll continue to practice small, random acts of kindness. And I’m going to teach all three of my boys to do the same.
One good thing isn’t a lot, but multiple ones add up quickly and this is an easy way my kids can be part of the solution instead of the problem.