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Finding Family Kindness

Posted by Patience on August 18, 2008 at 7:00 AM in PBS ValuesPatience
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A few years ago the teachers in my son's preschool class noticed the kids seemed to be struggling with lots of conflict. It was towards the end of the school year when classmates are more comfortable with each other and start acting almost like siblings.

Instead of whipping the kids into shape with a reminder of rules, the teachers found a more creative approach to changing the feel in the classroom. They invited a puppet named Verde to come and talk to the kids about being kind to one another. The kids and Verde came up with the idea of documenting acts of kindness. Everyday, the children were on the hunt to find the acts happening around them, not their own. Before long there were lists all over the room and kindness had worked its magic.

I was so touched by the idea and wondered if it could work for our family. We gathered the markers, decorated our own sheet and proudly displayed the colorful paper on the refrigerator.

"Mom! Mom! Jack helped Lucy put her jacket on, put it on the list mom!" Josiah yelled from the other room.

"Josiah, mom made pancakes, we LOVE pancakes mom. I think it's an act of kindness..." Jack said trying to find something in the hunt for goodness.

I sat at the table one night watching my husband Jorge and thought to myself, "Awww, He DOES love me, look at him doing the dishes."
I quietly walked to the door and added his act to the list. I started noticing the things he was doing instead of focusing on our long standing "discussion" on division of labor.

A week later small things held new value and peace had claimed a bigger stake in our everyday family life. The list eventually filled up and faded with water marks and juice stains but I didn't have the heart to take it down until we moved. Every once in awhile when everyone gets kind of grouchy and sick of each other, I revive the idea even if it is only identified in words. Kindness can always find it's way back if we just look for it.

What are your secrets for turning things around when your family is in a funk?
Try this kindness activity and tell us if it was a winner or a bomb at your house, or any variations that you think would work better.


Cari writes...

This works! I tried it at my house and DEFINITELY saw an improvement in behavior. Part of the "catch 'em being good" philosophy. We also tried a variation -- logging our own good deeds. That didn't go so well. Focusing outwards is the key!

Jean writes...

What a wonderful idea. My daughter's elementary school did something similar. They created a "Kindness Tree." At the beginning of the school year it was just a trunk with branches hanging prominently on the wall at the top of a heavily trafficked staircase. If a student either did something nice for someone else or witnessed a kind act he or she would write the deed on a leaf (cut out of green construction paper) and put it on the tree. It was wonderful to see the tree develop into a very full, leafy tree by the end of the school year.

Jess writes...

I love this idea! We've had a lot of brotherly bickering and tattling going on lately. It's definitely time for a shift in focus from what's annoying us to the nice things we do for each other. :)

Camwekz Pte Ltd writes...

Thanks for the creative suggestion. I would add in taking photos when act of kindness is spotted and add to the kindness tree.

Martha writes...

This is a great idea! It helps us to see good in others and raises awareness of how we are acting toward our family members.

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