By Cheryl Gochnauer
As the first tender rays of sunshine peek into your room, you turn to your baby and realize a new day truly has dawned.
A pure and unique life has been placed in your hands, and though many will write upon this unmarked slate before the child is grown, it is your chalk which will draw the greatest arc.
How do we build character in another? There are so many qualities we want to instill in our children — love, joy, and patience, to name a few.
One of the best legacies we can give them is a kind heart. Cultivating kindness in youngsters develops a priceless quality which will infuse all other areas of their lives.
The best way to teach has always been by example. Early on, especially, children naturally turn to their parents, picking up cues on how to respond to life events. Emerging viewpoints are dramatically influenced as they watch Mommy and Daddy interacting with one another.
Do my parents treat each other with respect and gentleness, or do apathy or anger permeate the household? How is tension, which appears at every doorstep from time to time, handled?
Nurturing a compassionate spirit doesn’t mean creating a Utopia for the child. Rather, a kind heart is developed through observing difficult times weathered with the right response. It’s generally not one instance that shapes a youngster’s outlook. Consistency is the key.
Relationships with brothers and sisters are important, too. Kids should be expected to treat each other kindly. There’s no need to let philosophical trends mush up convictions of right and wrong. “Aw, it’s just sibling rivalry.” No, it’s Johnny beating the stuffing out of his brother, Billy. And it’s not acceptable.
Our homes are our havens, and as such, we sometimes use critical words we would never dream of uttering anywhere else. Cursing co-workers and neighbors obviously works against the goal of teaching kindness. Complaining about extended family members also allows angry birds to swoop down and gobble up seeds of compassion sown in your child’s psyche.
But just as much damage can be done by subtle negative observations. These can be as simple as mentioning the girl who would be “so pretty if she’d just lose some weight”. Speak well of others, accentuating their positive qualities and praising their successes. Get in the habit of discovering ways to minister to people, and encourage your child to learn alongside you. Young children absorb your interpretations and take them as law. What a wonderful opportunity to build an open and accepting nature!
Kindness is an admirable quality that can be cultivated in any child. There is great strength in putting another’s needs before your own, in taking the time to nurture and not trample. Plant compassionate seeds early, and you’ll not be disappointed in the harvest.