At Landmark, we have found that four is a perfect age to increase children’s awareness of the world around them, and remind them of how their actions affect others. Landmark is a safe, welcoming microcosm of the outside world, and social skills become more important as children develop.
We give our students fuzzies instead of stickers or other reward, to reinforce kindness and empathy in class. Children often rub the fuzzies on their cheeks, and when the class has a good accumulation of fuzzies, we have a celebration, such as a popcorn party or a book on the Smart board.
As children learn and think about how others think and feel, they may reflect on how their choices, words, and actions affect themselves, family members and friends. Ideally, they will develop a consciousness that rejects hostility for empathy and peaceful resolution of conflicts.
At home, parents can reinforce what we do in the classroom, of course. Jobs and chores contribute to family life. Start simply
by reminding children they can be kind and helpful without being asked: books put away before going in the bath, be kind to mommy and daddy and siblings, get out toothbrush and paste, help get school bag ready for next day. Using manners shows respect for others; a good book with this theme is My Mouth is a Volcano by Julia Cook. In addition, Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten offers some insight into the value of simple acts, and how they can help us deal with our increasingly complex world. It’s worth a second read if you haven’t viewed it from a parent’s perspective. Remind children to be kind listeners when someone else is speaking, and during cozy time, give extra hugs and/or special time together if they have shown kindness. During meals, Mom and Dad can talk about something kind they did that day, or something someone did for them, and then ask children about playground time. You can celebrate fuzzies at home, with a family box of kindness, paperclips, craft pompoms or anything that your children may like. In our classroom, we have a goal of 30-50 random acts of kindness a month, but you may want to start smaller, with one or two per week.
Being aware of the benefits of spreading and modeling kindness and empathy is half the battle. If we emulate others’ kindness, and are determined to reinforce gestures and actions at home and with friends, our children will have a good start toward a life of positive relationships and awareness of self and others.