the kindness wall

November 19, 2012 |  Category:   life parenting

We had parent teacher conferences last week and as I was waiting for my turn and looking around at all the artwork in the hallway, I noticed the “kindness wall” created by C’s class. It was filled with annotated drawings by the kids that demonstrated various acts of kindness as conceived and interpreted by 6 year olds. It made me think how interesting it is that we need to reinforce and teach kindness, selflessness and compassion to children. Aren’t these traits already inherent in human nature? Or is our natural instinct to protect our own best interest? I don’t really know the answer, but I do know that I sometimes need to gently nudge the girls towards the more selfless path when given a choice or faced with a decision. The younger one sometimes has a hard time understanding this, and this was fairly evident when we talked recently about donating some of her toys to kids who lost everything during the storm. She agreed after some resistance to the idea, but I’m not sure she really “got it”. This is probably a typical response from any little kid so it makes me think, is compassion and selflessness something that needs to be taught and nurtured?


I’ve seen a lot of acts of kindness throughout the city the last few weeks. It’s unthinkable to even consider where we’d be if people didn’t step up to volunteer and help their fellow citizens. Kind of gives you hope for the world. But I think I’m most impressed by the dedication demonstrated by those people who gave their time and energy even while dealing with their own losses from the storm. This includes people that I know, many of whom are fellow small food business owners. I don’t know what motivates some people to roll up their sleeves and jump in. Maybe you draw on some past experience and know what it’s like to go through hard times yourself. Or maybe you were raised with these values and had exceptional role models. To feel compassion but to actually act upon those feelings are 2 slightly different things. I look at that “kindness wall” and realize that it’s not enough to talk. It’s probably best to lead by example and not just make it part of your vocabulary, but part of your way of life. I may not always succeed at this, but like any parent, you hope that some of this gets absorbed by your children so that they can grow up to be compassionate adults.

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  • Mary November 19, 2012 at 10:03 am

    It’s something I think about a lot. My kids are incredibly fortunate, and I want to make sure they understand that not everybody has as much as we do. That it is our responsibility to help others. It can be difficult to determine how to best expose them to this. Living and leading by example is definitely the best way.

  • Naomi November 19, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Great post, love pic and so timely. IMO It’s so important for parents to instill how important it is to be charitable & compassionate to others whether it’s post Sandy or just everyday acts of kindness. It is wonderful to see the generous outpouring of people volunteering post Sandy. I have seen first hand how deeply touched those affected by Sandy’s are, that strangers have come to their aid. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Lani November 19, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    So interesting that you wrote about this when you did. Last night on 60 minutes there was a whole segment on whether or not babies are born kind or if they’re born selfish. Very amazing results which show that it’s quite normal for children to be selfish when Young and to become more generous as they get older. I was shocked but it did make sense. Watch it if you can.

  • Cori Magee November 19, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    This post is beautiful and exactly the type of conversation my husband and I have been having lately as we discuss starting a family in 2013 (if all goes well).
    I saw my niece yesterday and was saddened by the lack of kindness. I don’t believe “oh, she’s just a bratty teenager” is any excuse to be cruel and selfish. She has no idea what hard times are and it’s up to the parents to teach her. Unfortunately, they’re not.

  • Soo November 19, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Well said.. I think people generally are good (nature) but when it comes to acting on it, sometimes it takes a little assistance (nurture).

  • Leilani November 19, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Babies have to be born selfish. It’s a matter of survival. But young children can learn to empathize with others and can be very kind. I taught preschool for quite a few years (2 year olds!) and with brief explanations of circumstances they were very accepting of the feelings and quirks, if you will, of other children. A child with a vision problem needed to sit in my lap and put his head very close to the book to see it and the others understood and didn’t try to crowd him out. They also would show him where a ball went when he couldn’t track it. Another child needed to hide under a table and gather pillows around her to separate from her mother and the other kids would take the pillows to her. Another one needed a morning nap in addition to afternoon nap and everyone left her alone to sleep in the corner. If a child was crying the others wanted to know why s/he was sad. I could go on…but the idea is that with gentle teaching kids are capable of learning early on to be kind.

  • Leilani November 19, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    P. S. Aloha, Lani

  • Helle November 20, 2012 at 4:20 am

    I agree with Leilani that children are born selfish and when guided can learn to empathise. Some just seem have it more naturally than others. E.g. my nephew would look after and be concerned for his class mates, whereas his sister never did that. Just as there are, as you write, so many kindhearted, helpful people who are doing great things in the aftermath of the storm, and there will be many others who could afford to, both as far as time or money goes, who will not do anything.

  • Simone November 20, 2012 at 4:28 am

    I don’t know. When our eldest was 18 months we brought her to a daycare centre for one day a week because we saw she needed interaction with other children, not just her 2 parents. When we were there we left her alone so the group leaders could observe her for a while and see how she dealt with separation.
    When we came back they told us that at a certain point she had gone up to another baby that was crying and started to rub his back and console him. Ofcourse I would love to believe that I am a wonderful mother and I nurtured that into her, but really that is who and how she is, amazing.
    Have a wonderful day!!!

  • Kiana November 20, 2012 at 4:49 am

    I agree with Leilani. It’s a self-survival strategy for human beings to be selfish. But with civilization, and the realization that you don’t live in the wild or a Machiavelian world, you realize that compassion and kindness is the new norm. Or at least it should be. My only regret is that it takes a natural disaster to bring us together. :/

  • cantaloupe November 20, 2012 at 6:31 am

    I think kindness definitely has to be modeled for kids in order for them to know what it is; it’s not something innate that you just grow up thinking to do. I teach a bunch of spoiled brats whose parents think school is just a babysitting service and I see very little compassion in them. There are a few kids who have some really great empathy skills, and at parent teacher conferences it is clear why they stand out, with their caring, involved parents. There are other kids who are just straight up mean, and when you call home and the parent doesn’t even care to return your call, no matter how many times you contact them, it’s crystal clear why that kid’s indifferent to anyone else’s suffering. If nobody has ever been kind to a kid, how are they supposed to know how to do it or that it’s even an option?

  • Sara Jensen November 20, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    We encourage empathy and kindness in our house. For Henry its something that he has to work on since he isnt socially gifted, for R it comes a little more naturally because well, shes had to work for everything and knows what real pain is.
    When R was entering into kindergarten I was told that my daughter was not being placed in a class with some other kids she was friends with because they didnt want her to be a burden on their children because her life story was so sad. I really think that a lot of people have shifted over to teaching their children to only look out for themselves as a way to protect their kids and make sure that they get everything that they want but dont realize that the expense is that they are raising a future asshole. Which we dont need more of.

  • Gracie November 28, 2012 at 9:13 am

    I think we all have the capacity but some people choose not to listen to that tiny voice. Do the right thing is so ingrained in me because of the role models I had/have, but I still sometimes do the wrong thing, but let me tell you I feel so bad about it! Hehe