Thoughtfulness gives opportunity for random acts of kindness


Every year there are days set aside for everyone to concentrate on kindness to others. The World Kindness Day held in the fall, Random Acts of Kindness day in the winter, and the whole month of February is devoted to kindness. It is great to have those special occasions, but it is those random acts and sometimes anonymous acts that pleasantly surprise us and create a desire to “pay it forward,” doing the same for others.

What can we do though, what are the opportunities we have to be kind that come up for us unexpectedly that we do not plan for or may not be encouraged to do. All of us have these opportunities, and our children can look for ways to be a part of doing kind acts this way.

An act of kindness may be done without prompting or without thinking about it too much on purpose if we are practicing thoughtfulness. When walking into a store, we may thoughtfully look around to see if someone is near us that we could hold the door open to let them in. We may be even aware of not letting the door go back into their face as we are leaving. Or letting someone in line ahead of us if they have fewer items than ourselves. That would be thoughtful and use courtesy.

Our act of kindness may be as simple as a smile directed to someone we pass on the sidewalk, or the recognition of a homeless person. Little recognition’s of visibility can make a big difference in a person’s life, so how do we show that we see and value people? Every time we do a kind act for someone we are saying to them, “I see you.  I value you as human.” So it could be a smile, question or a helping hand.

How could we show kindness at home not connected to what expectations of sharing responsibilities? What could you do if a family member was sick, how could you be helpful? It might be as simple as being more quiet than usual, or asking what they need that we might bring to them? We might show them we are thinking about them by getting or making a card or delivering flowers to their side to cheer them up.

At school it could be noticing the new person in your class, inviting them to join your lunch table. Maybe you have seen someone that is alone and not engaged with others. Do they need a listening ear, a friend, or just an acknowledgment? They may be sad about an event in their life, or they may be getting picked on by aggressors. What could you do to be kind?

How would you show kindness to your pets? How could you show kindness to others in the community, seniors, handicapped, homeless?  If you are a parent, think of areas of life that you would like to see your child show more kindness or show it differently and ask them “What would kindness look like in this situation?”

When we take care of others when they are in need or least expect it, we are practicing kindness. Our goal is to THINK KINDNESS.

Practice kindness: look for ways to help others


Kindness is all about being of good to those that cross our path in life including people, animals, situations and the earth itself. When I think kindness I imagine showing care for the welfare of others as much as I care about myself without expecting anything in return. It is a way of copying what the universe does for us, providing air to breathe with nothing asked in return.

As parents who know that if our children grow up with kindness as a core virtue in their life that they will benefit and so will all that cross their path. In fact, some have stated that kindness is the greatest method of self-defense known to man. What does it look like in our day to day life?

Kindness at home embodies other virtues like helpfulness, caring, courtesy and responsibility. When we help each other with household chores, we are showing compassion. When we care for the needs of each other with courteous words, we honor the value of each person.

Kindness at school or for adults at work the simple gestures of holding the door for others, inviting new students or workmates to eat lunch together or supporting each other on projects is showing kindness.

Kindness in our community can be shown by helping out a neighbor, picking up trash or showing appreciation for animals by feeding birds in the winter. There are many simple ways of showing kindness in all aspects of our life. However, we find ourselves so busy and sometimes absorbed in our world, it is best for us to be purposeful about our practice.

From a parents point of view, our purposefully speaking about kindness, role modeling kindness and inviting the participation in kind acts with our children will build in them the desire and practice of thinking kindness and looking for ways to help others.

Gifts of Character: Kindness – The Definition

Each month we will discuss one virtue with all of our students. This month’s virtue is Kindness. This will be defined in the following ways for our students.

Young students:  I use caring words and choose kind actions

Older students:  Showing care, concern, and consideration for others without expecting anything in return.

We are not your typical after school activity, in fact, we are an education center, working with students on physical self-defense skills while empowering families to bring out the best in our children and ourselves – through the martial arts. We believe every child has 52 gifts in them already. They only need to be taught how to grow and use them in their life. Balanced Life Skills serves parents, teachers, and students to reach that goal.


Self-reliance and when to ask for help

It is a sign of self-reliance when you are trying something new. It is also a sign that your confidence is growing, you are willing to try a new skill, not knowing if you will get it or make a mistake or if it will work or fail. Your confidence in your ability to figure it out is taking you to that next level. However, what happens after you have tried and it did not work the way you hoped? What happens if you are not getting it yet?

You have three choices before you. The first choice is to keep trying on your own. That choice shows a great deal of perseverance, determination, and commitment to your task. The second choice is to give up and let go of the idea of learning. This choice may be an invitation to develop another virtue possibly your determination, or it could be diligence or even humility. What do we mean by that? It has to do with your third choice, and that is you could ask for help.

It takes humility, modesty even courage to know when it is time to ask for help from someone who has already gained this skill. So if you are stuck on a math problem in school or do not know how to start a report you need to write, whom could you ask for help? It could be your teacher, your parents or even a classmate if you know they have that skill. How do you know when to ask for help?

Certainly, if you do not understand what you are working on, getting clarification and pointers is a great way to get yourself started again on your goal. If you are doing something that could be unsafe or you could get hurt, asking for help is a wise choice. Let’s say you want to go skiing, but you have never skied before. You could get hurt if you went down the wrong side of the mountain without the skill needed. Taking lessons and getting help would be wise.

However, if you are asking for help for something that you just do not feel like doing that is not practicing fairness to those around you. So if it is your contribution to the family to take the trash out and you just do not feel like it, you may want to think about the fairness to others in your family. You may consider whose responsibility it is and see it as an invitation to practice your responsibility, dependability, and trustworthiness.

All of us at some time have not felt like doing something that was our responsibility. However, if we are growing our self-reliance, we step up and take care of what we are capable of doing. At the same time if you need some help, if you really cannot do what is asked of you, practice humility and courage and ask for the help you need. Then next time you may be able to demonstrate your self-reliance by doing the task by yourself.

How to make self-reliant kids

Self-reliance is a life skill that in the beginning depends on having cheerleaders on our side encouraging us to keep moving forward, take the next step until we gain the confidence to do so on our own. This fact is true for most of us no matter our age. Especially with children though we must balance our praise and encouragement with some needed help to get them over an obstacle that may be too much at this moment in time.

The tricky part that has been the most difficult for parents since the 1980’s is the part of giving too much. I am becoming more convinced with each family that I work with and talk to that it is the giving of too much that has created the reason that we need to focus so much on self-reliance, resilience, and grit in our young people today.

There are so many examples of young people that did not grow up in a situation that their parents had very much to give except for their unconditional love and building a relationship with their kids. In those kids many times we see grit and determination to do better for themselves and to make things happen. Unfortunately, once they have gained a level of success, they may not realize it was the hardships they went through and the work they did that created the person they are today. So they make the mistake of wanting to give their kids everything they did not have and, the virtue of determination, the life skill of self-reliance is not strengthened in their children.

In other families, I have seen the children handed everything they need and want and later in life, grow up not knowing how to pull themselves up from failure and make something happen. They continue to look for others to do things for them. Now just to be clear this is not a blanket statement about every kid and every family. However, not encouraging our kids to work for their goals is not going to help them be self-reliant.

Building self-reliance is key to building a stable, resilient, gritty adult. Balancing our helpfulness and generosity with our kids with honoring their dignity and strength is what creates healthy successful and happy adults. Doing too much for a child does not allow them to strengthen this life skill or their resilience that they need in the adult world.

What is self-reliance and how can our kids learn it

Self-reliance is the goal of parents for their children so that when they get older and out on their own they can function and accomplish the day to day tasks of life. There are several virtues needed to attain this life skill of self-reliance. Our child will be building their confidence, independence, dependability, patience, flexibility, and trust – self-trust.

When our child is very young, just a baby, they depend on us for everything. We feed them, dress them, and get them from one place to another. Later they learn to crawl and walk, start using eating utensils and dressing while becoming self-reliant. They start making choices about what they will wear, who they want to be friends with and make judgments about what is right and wrong, fair or unfair. While we are excited to see them grow up it can be difficult too. As they take on these new areas of life, they are building their self-reliance.

From the parents perspective helping our children grow their self-reliance requires us also to be confident, patient, flexible and trusting. The number one rule in building self-reliance is not to do for a child what they can do for themselves. What we know as an adult is that every new thing we try may not come quickly at first. With practice though, a few mess ups and coaching we can improve.

When helping our child develop their self-reliance, we will give them the same opportunities without judgment to try new things, practice, mess up while we coach them through the process. Setting our expectations at a developmentally appropriate scale and allowing mistakes and imperfections as learning experiences will build their confidence. Even while the child is learning to make judgment calls, we can coach them through the process of decision making and allow them to deal with the consequences that come up so they learn to make choices that will be the best for them.

Building self-reliance can be a bit messy while in the middle of the process. However, the result of seeing our child making choices that are best for them, taking care of household chores on their own, getting up in the morning by themselves and other things without prompting from us the parents is worth celebrating. Self-reliance is about depending on ourselves and trusting our choices. Parenting is about educating, guiding, correcting in a way, so our children grow up with self-reliance.