teaching kindness - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 11-01-2011, 04:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My dd is about to is just five.  She is an only child.  She has a terrible time sharing and always has, and more and more is showing herself to not be very kind to other kids.  I picked her up from school today to have three different kids tell me she had been mean to them. She can be so mean with what she says and how she says it.  I don't understand where she is even learning some of the things I hear her say.  I try to talk with her about it and she always has excuses for her behavior or denies it entirely. I really worry she is going to end up with no friends, if she doesn't learn to interact with other kids in a better way.  I am at a loss right now with how to help her through this.  I find it really challenging, because she is an only child and therefore I don't have the daily opportunity to teach her to share and be kind to another child.  For the most part she is very loving and sweet with us, as we are with her.  It is always shocking to me to see her not be that way with other children.  I know some of it is age appropriate, but I am not sure how much.  

Would love any ideas, advice....

Thanks.

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#2 of 9 Old 11-05-2011, 06:35 PM
 
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I wonder if it would help to have some playdates that you supervise. Expect the issue to come up and be ready to address it. It is just harder for some kids and they tend to get better at it as they get older. Your guidance in a smaller setting might help her to see the value of it.


 
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#3 of 9 Old 11-05-2011, 07:51 PM
 
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My daughter is also an only.  She's kind of the opposite of your daughter - she's lonely so she's overly eager to share (here, take it!  TAKE IT!  JUST TAKE IT!) and a little clingy.  She's not mean, but she will let other kids be mean to her.  School is helping a LOT.  Play dates are helping.  Time at the park with other kids...she's getting practice and finding her "social" feet.

 

I would talk to her about what the other kid said and ask her what she thinks (do you think you were mean?  Kid X feels you were.  How could you have said "whatever it was" without being mean?  What is a nice way to say you want a turn or whatever?) 

 

To me, it felt really weird at first to be having these kinds of stilted conversations, but asking my daughter what's going on from her side (and hearing the other side as well and sometimes even seeing what happens) has helped me understand how she processes things.  Asking her what she can doing differently gets her involved in thinking about what happened and how she can do things next time.  It feels kind of false and fake to me, but it seems to work.

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#4 of 9 Old 11-21-2011, 12:00 PM
 
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My 5 y/o only child is much more like NiteNicole's, and my almost 5 y/o stepson's (only child in a different state) is much like the OP's. It's REALLY hard when they do see each other, which is about five times a year. Right now we are day one into a week long visit and it's heartbreaking to see the interaction between them sometimes. DS is so overly eager to please DSS and DSS is very dictative towards him, especially b/c he knows he can get away with it with DS. DH and I definitely try to create learning moments out of this but it's tough! I think that I have begun to realize that DS needs to be in a social atmosphere more often than what he is now. We used to do steady playdates several times a week but this year it's just not working out because of scheduling and school stuff.

 

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#5 of 9 Old 11-22-2011, 09:25 AM
 
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I'm going to say something sort of provocative and philosophical. When I read the headline of this post, I thought "Kindness cannot be taught. It must be learned." I mean it cannot be taught [i.e. via words] by the parent, but must be learned by the child. There is a fine distinction. Here is what I mean....

 

We struggle with this. Our DS (8) is frequently not very kind to others, and it took us a long time to realize probably why that was, despite all the TALK from us about being kind, sharing, being peaceful and all that. To this day he hates it when we "talk about peace"....and I think I know why. It strikes him as hypocritical, because he does not FEEL and SEE that same kindness and peace coming from us. Yes, DH and I struggle with it. We all carry the baggage of our upbringings. DH and I, sadly, project a "what's in it for me?" attitude, and our very bright and perceptive son can probably sense that when we try and teach him to be kind and be a peacemaker, we are saying "do as I say, not as I do." He must know that when we bring food to a food bank, that we are on some level doing it because we should, because we know that is what good people do, and it's what needs to be done, and it's what good people try and teach their kids....which is different from some of the other parents I know who are genuinely compassionate toward others including their kids, whose whole lives are completely oriented around this level of caring. (Rather than a life oriented around "shoulds"). Mind you, I am not talking about the OP here. I have no idea what her family is like. I am ONLY talking from my own experience, looking at our own shortcomings, and raising the philosophical question. (it's what I do best!)  :-)

 

I truly believe that if we were naturally kinder, more giving people, our son would be that way too, because kids learn what they live.

 

It is humbling and saddening to realize the ways in which we've let DS down, but the plus side is realizing it is the first step to changing it.

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#6 of 9 Old 11-22-2011, 10:26 AM
 
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NellieKatz, I think you are too hard on yourself.

 

And I think you have an interesting insight. Children to some extent reflect the behavior that they see in the people closest to them. Demonstrating kindness is just as important as teaching it.

 

As adults, even if we aren't perfect in our demonstration of kindness, perhaps it's good to state that we aspire to greater kindness or it's something we are working on. That at least opens the door to conversation about kindness, what it is, how to show it, how to work on it, why it's sometimes challenging to manifest.

 


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#7 of 9 Old 11-23-2011, 01:17 AM
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by NellieKatz View Post
 He must know that when we bring food to a food bank, that we are on some level doing it because we should, because we know that is what good people do, and it's what needs to be done, and it's what good people try and teach their kids....which is different from some of the other parents I know who are genuinely compassionate toward others including their kids, whose whole lives are completely oriented around this level of caring. (Rather than a life oriented around "shoulds"). Mind you, I am not talking about the OP here. I have no idea what her family is like. I am ONLY talking from my own experience, looking at our own shortcomings, and raising the philosophical question. (it's what I do best!)  :-)

 

I truly believe that if we were naturally kinder, more giving people, our son would be that way too, because kids learn what they live.

 

It is humbling and saddening to realize the ways in which we've let DS down, but the plus side is realizing it is the first step to changing it.



Whoa.... I think you're being way too hard on yourself. You're setting an impossible, unachievable standard. Even Mother Teresa wasn't that good!

 

I think you're also "guilty" of assuming that some people don't have the same doubts and struggles that you do. I know some truly compassionate and caring people.You know what? They still get angry at their kids. Their kids still argue and bicker. Sometimes, their kids aren't very compassionate. But, I have no doubt that their children will grow up to be kind, compassionate, caring adults. Why? Because their parents are modeling for them what it means to be kind. And equally important: Their parents are modeling for them how you make amends when you know you haven't been kind.

 

There's an alternative explanation: Maybe your children are still CHILDREN. Their minds are the minds of children. They are, by their very nature, focused on themselves until they near puberty (when then they focus on themselves in relationship to their social group, which also doesn't always manifest itself in kindness).

 

Compassion and kindness aren't something you 'get' overnight or that you 'get' when you're young because your parents are compassionate to the core. You get it because you see it modeled, you see it practiced, when you screw up and aren't kind, the adults in your life help you see things from another person's perspective and help you make amends if you can. You practice these skills many times. You see your parents messing up and then doing it right. Your parents talk sometimes about their struggles to do the right thing. You hear your parents discussing how much money or time they can afford to give to a cause. You see your parents and the other adults in your community stepping up and serving. Your parents bring you along to serve. Other people in your community help you serve. People serve you when you are in need of help. People talk with you about the 'big' issues -- discrimination, poverty, political ideas, facts, opinions, etc. etc. (You're right NellieKatz that lectures don't do any good. But a good adult-adult discussion about peace with your son overhearing you just might lead him to take in more than you think.)

 

OP: your daughter is FIVE. At this age, I found it helpful to first hear my daughter's side of the story. She had to get all the emotion out. Then, and only then, could I ask questions about what she thought the other kids were thinking/doing. We would work through, together, the idea of different perspectives. Then we'd get up the next day and do it all over again. Sometimes play acting scenes with stuffed animals helped. Hearing stories of times I wasn't kind, or when people weren't kind to me also helped. Kids this age need a lot of practice seeing things from another child's perspective. They're very concrete thinkers.

 

At the same time, realize that the other kids don't exactly have a neutral perspective. They're also learning to be part of a social group and what the social rules are. They need to learn to work out their differences with your daughter.

 

Finally, an example from my daughter: Deep down, I know that our daughter is kind and compassionate. She has an incredibly strong sense of justice (you should hear her rant on social justice topics!) She sends her friends letters. When we're out, if we buy a treat, she immediately thinks to buy some for her brother. She's very empathetic and very sensitive to my moods. When I was going through a bout of depression this fall, she wrote me the absolutely sweetest note.

 

But, you know what? She's often not kind. When I was at her school last year (when she was in 1st grade), one of the kids came over to me and said in very worried tone: "You need to tell M to quit being mean to me." I never could quite get out of this little girl what dd did to be mean to her, but it was clearly an on-going problem. The truth is, dd does not suffer fools gladly and she shows that through her expressions and in her words. She also doesn't filter her thoughts very well yet. (Her "thank you" note that she wrote in class to her older brother read: "Dear T, thank you for being nice to me some of the time (even though I hate you sometimes)." Um....not very kind.

 

Dd is also very tight with her money. She's saved up 50+ dollars from birthday/Christmas money. Yet, when we had a project at church where we were buying school supplies for school kits for Lutheran World Relief, dd absolutely refused to part with any of "her" money. She was grudgingly willing to earn money toward the project, but no way was she going to give money. That's not very caring.

 

She fights with her brother. She has a tendency to blame other people when things go wrong. She stomps around the house when she's mad. Even at 7, she sometimes whacks her brother. Not the sort of mature behavior I'd like to see.

 

She's 7. She's a work in progress. I don't despair (most days). I'm hopeful that someday, with the help of her parents (us), her extended family, our church community and the larger community that she will eventually become a caring, helpful adult. Just don't expect it consistently now.


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#8 of 9 Old 11-23-2011, 07:47 PM
 
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Thanks to you and the other PP who said I was being too hard on myself. That's what I do best.  :-)   I appreciate the support.

 

 

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#9 of 9 Old 12-03-2011, 07:47 PM
 
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Honestly, I think a lot of it boils down to personality. As we get older we learn to filter our personal tendencies through a social filter, but when we are young we can't do it as much yet. I agree that all kids are learning, learning, learning from everything they see, and modeling is the foundation. But personality counts for something too.

 

I have a very, very, very kind oldest son, despite me having made many mistakes and having lost my temper too many times. A concern of mine is also that he has seen me be unkind to *myself* way too many times. At his core, though, he's a pretty happy-go-lucky guy, and he likes to stay that way, and he likes to see other people that way; he really gets joy from it. And so he is kind. He doesn't need much of a social filter for his personality, because it's genuine for him and it's accepted by society. For a more moody personality, or a more analytical, discernment-focused personality, things might be a bit harder on the playground, and it might be harder for them to translate their basic experience and thoughts into a socially acceptable experience for others.

 

Have you heard about the "temperament types"? A lot of different philosophies incorporate some acknowledgement of different kinds of temperaments. Waldorf has some good temperament info regarding young children and how to work with them -- they divide temperaments into Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic, and Phlegmatic. Sanguine is the kind happy-go-lucky type, and Choleric is the fabulous-leader-and-discerner, sometimes-unkind type. All of this is not to excuse unkind behavior, but to place it in context in order to work with it better.

 

And, ALL of that said, I also think it is worth it to investigate other sources of unhappiness for her. Because unkindness is sometimes simply unhappiness. Maybe she could use some filial play therapy from you, or maybe she's having some food reactions, which can create a grumpy fogginess.

 

And she certainly needs limits and redirection, so she won't negatively impact others and herself. That can be a service to her, as she learns to walk in the world. Have you tried the very basic empathy-building work of identifying with her what she's feeling when she is being unkind, and accepting that (is she irritated, scared, uncomfortable, protective)? Then what the other person is feeling? Then how her words might actually *cover up* her expression of what she is feeling, so that other people can't understand what she needs?


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The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. - Albert Einstein

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