Parents: we are responsible for bringing up our children to learn to be inclusive. It starts young – very young. It starts at the school post box at Christmas time. Do you think it’s there to weed out the most unpopular kids in the class? No – it’s there to promote friendship and sharing. It is so important that we use this opportunity to talk to our kids about kindness. We need to lead by example. Do we buy them one pack of cards and let them choose who they will send them to? No! We must grab this moment to show them a lesson in how to be kind. This is a golden opportunity to get this message across. We buy enough cards for the whole class and we make sure they write one to everybody. Inevitably, as they are writing a card they will turn to you and say: ‘but I don’t like her. I don’t want to send one to her’. If they are saying this at 4 years old then it is our job as parents to make sure they are not saying it at 5. Because we must turn to our child when they say this and we must tell them that it is very important that they send that person a card. We must tell them that the naughty kid, the loud kid, the boisterous one, the one who isn’t very nice, is probably the one who needs their card the most. Children understand the spirit of Christmas and this will make our message all the stronger and easier to understand. So that on our child’s birthday, when they turn to us and say: ‘I don’t want to invite him’, when they are inviting everyone else in the class, we are able to build on what our children already know about being kind.
My daughter was once the only child in an entire group at primary school who wasn’t invited to a party. I don’t blame the child for not inviting her – they didn’t always see eye to eye and so given a choice, she chose to exclude her – a childish punishment for not always getting on. It is the parents who must see past this childish behaviour, because we are not seeing the world through a child’s eyes. We know that this is unkind. Sometimes, even on their birthday, we must force our children to be kind. Then, as they grow up and move in to secondary school, they will have an inbuilt sense of what is right and what is wrong: what is kind and what is unkind behaviour.
As someone said on a Facebook post I read today: ‘My research showed that (arguably) the most psychologically damaging is the leaving out and ignoring of people! Humans long for human affection, in love, friendship, and simple acknowledgement’.
Parents: we are responsible. It’s simple: we must teach our children to be kind. Not just to refugees who we might send a shoe box of toys to. Not just to the homeless children, who they might give some of their well loved cuddlies to. It’s actually very easy to show kindness in these ways. We must firstly teach them to be kind to the child whose name they know, whose class they are in. Kind to the child who is different. Kind to the child who craves it, because that child doesn’t really know what it is and over time, that will really, really hurt.