The Kindness Project
Posted November 1, 2014 by Prairie Wife - 10 comments
Disclaimer: I love my kids…a lot and I think they are great.
Now that that’s out of the way, sometimes my kids are big fat jerks to each other. Sometimes when they are playing I overhear things that just stun me, floor me, mortify me…things that cause me to lay awake at night and question my abilities as a mother. I know I need to keep this in perspective. After all, “shut-up” is worse than a swear word around here, and name calling is unheard of but…they still find ways to be cruel.
For example, the Cowkids were sent down to clean the playroom a few weeks ago, when suddenly I began to hear screeching piercing noises that were making the Cowdogs cower. I softy went down the stairs and heard Cowgirl G verbally berating the Cowboys for their lack of effort and teamwork. Should I mention that she was spending all her energy screaming and crying rather than cleaning? The other day Cowboy J lost his belt. Rather than look for it he immediately went to Cowboy W and tortured him mentally. He accused him of being a liar and thief and intimidated him with his size and voice so much, that the perfectly innocent 4 year old fessed up and said he did it! In truth the belt was in Cowboy J’s pants, which were on the floor of the bathroom, where he had left them after he had taken a shower the night before! Then we have petty little things like Cowboy W holding the baby gate shut so Cowboy C can’t get through…resulting in nerve shattering screams from a frustrated Cowboy C.
I’ll admit that I lost it when the belt incident occurred. The whole drive to school I lectured the Cowkids on how our home was a safe place where no one should feel intimidated or bullied. That there were enough mean people at school and in the world at large that were going to make them feel badly, and I was in no way going to put up with it in our home. I emphasized over and over that our home is where we should feel the most loved and safe, confident in our ability to be loved no matter what. A place we go where our hearts are filled, not picked at and broken. I’m sure they only heard every other word (if that) but it got me thinking about how something needed to change. The Cowboy and I are always respectful and polite to each other, and I know for a fact I don’t intimidate and bully my kids. It was the real world leaking in and I knew it was up to me to fix this problem.
So we began a kindness project.
I printed out a piece of paper and placed it where all the Cowkids could reach it and see it. Each person in the family, The Cowboy and I included, had 14 empty squares next to their name. Anytime someone felt good inside because of something someone else did or said they could put an X in a box next to that person’s name. You can’t give X’s to yourself and only one X can be handed out by each person a day. Whoever fills all their boxes first gets to pick a family activity for all of us to do. Only The Cowboy and I could remove X’s and that would only be done only if someone was extremely unkind. At dinner each night when we gathered to eat as a family I asked who had put X’s up that day. Each Cowkid shared who they gave an X to and we talked about what that person did that made them feel good inside. Some acts of kindness were simple, like me helping with homework, and other acts of kindness were more involved like playing a game or reading a book to a younger sibling.
The Cowkids were thrilled at the idea of a “kindness competition” and the first two days we almost choked on all the sweetness. Things settled down after the first few days but I still noticed a change in our house’s overall vibe. I think the key to the change wasn’t the chart itself but the nightly positive reinforcement. Not only were the Cowkids filled with joy and pride when they saw a new X by their name but, hearing a sibling praise them in front of the whole family made them feel extra loved. I also noticed that whoever gave the X was feeling pretty good inside as well when they got to explain why they gave an X. On days when one of the kids didn’t get an X I waited to see pouting, and maybe even a rehashing of all the kind things they had done that had gone unnoticed. I am pleased to say that this hasn’t happened yet. Perhaps it’s the stern warning that they are not to ask for X’s or prompt another Cowkid to put an X up, or maybe it’s simply that they are feeling more confident and secure now!
The first round of The Kindness Project is done and Cowboy J was the winner. I’m looking forward to seeing how the next round goes, and I can honestly say that this has truly made ALL of us more kind!
How do you help your kids to be kind to each other?
Copyright: ilona75 / 123RF Stock Photo
Categories: Life As It Happens