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Opting Out of Kindness

Posted on November 10, 2010


I always make a point to mention during the Kids Empowered parenting workshops that if your child is having a birthday party and they are inviting a "group" of kids (ie., the class, the soccer team, the Scout troop) then they must invite the whole group.  Without a doubt a hand is raised and the question is asked....."What if my child doesn't like a child in the class?  or "What if there is a child that is mean to my child."
My response is that it is the right thing to do to invite everyone in a group.  If you want to teach your child to be kind and inclusive then you have to invite everyone in a group whether or not they are not your favorite person.  If you are in a situation in which you feel that it is not possible to include someone then have a party in which you invite a few kids from many different groups- the classes, the neighborhood, the soccer team,etc....
I continue to be perplexed that parents think it is ok to leave a child out just because their child does not care for that child or that parent feel it is their child's decision to who they invite or not.  We are our child's teachers and if they would choose not to be inclusive then we do not give them that option.  If you want to grow a kind child then being kind is not something you pick and choose when you feel like it and depending on who that person is.
Kind is who you in an day that person and that person, and the next person......
I have said for a long time that I think playdates is a contributing factor to why there is so much meanness on the playground.  Instead of walking outside to play with whoever happens to be outside, our children and parents are "picking" who to play with.   Instead of just playing our kids now are taught to make decisions on that person and those decisions come along with lots of judgement... is that child popular, do I feel like playing with that child, will it hurt my popularity to play with that child,etc.....
Take a second to read this other great blog that teaches kids about "opting out of kindness" »


Recently, at a school program I asked the kids what being kind "looked like". One of the girls responded that if you didn't get along with someone being kind means to ignore them.  I know what she was thinking...instead of getting into it with them just ignore them so you don't get into it with them.
But guess what....our children can play with kids they don't like and play with kids who are different from them and play with kids that annoy them.  They don't know it because most adults are not teaching that...they are saying avoid and ignore....  how about we teach.... "Deal with it".

Seriously, Life is not a bowl of cherries! I like Forrest Gump's mother's philosophy "Life's a box of chocolates, Forrest. You never know what you're gonna get."
Our children don't know telling someone they are annoying them is mean. It is ok to ask someone in a gentle way to stop doing something if it is distracting them from doing their work but children seem to think they can ask kids to stop about anything if they feel it annoys them.  Children can be annoyed all they want but they need to learn to manage feeling annoyed. Our children need to learn to deal with all kinds of people.  The more empathetic, understanding, flexible, and inclusive they are the more they can move in and out of different social groups.
Don't let your children opt out of being kind! Make sure as a parent you are setting that example!  

Kimber Bishop-Yanke, M.I.M., is the founder of Kids Empowered and the author of this blog.

Kimber trains nationally and internationally on bully-proofing your children. Kimber develops curriculum and leads programs for kids, parents, and professionals on how to build confidence and self-esteem, develop socials skills and emotional intelligence, and dealing with unfriendly friends, mean-spirited behaviors, relational aggression, and bullying. As a volunteer Kimber organizes Kids Against Hunger packagings and is the Chair of Fundraising for Kenya Relief. She has also taken her program to Israel where she teaches her program to Palestinian and Israeli counselors and kids at a camp that brings children together for reconciliation.

Email Kimber »

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