Teaching Kids The Importance Of Kindness

Kindness is infectious: Be kind and your child will learn to be too. This Valentine’s Day, nurture this virtue in your child by taking inspiration from Mahima Poddar and The Kindness Project.

By Team ParentCircle

Teaching Kids The Importance Of Kindness
A random act of kindness
Together we can change the world, just one random act of kindness at a time. — Ron Hall, writer and producer

Every person holds the power to make a difference in another person’s life. It doesn’t always have to be big gestures, but just a smile, a kind word, a polite greeting or any act of kindness that can make a difference. And kindness is a gift anyone can give.

The Kindness Project (TKP) is a community that strives to inculcate kindness and empathy in children through various acts of caring and by sharing inspiring stories. Mahima Poddar, the founder of TKP, believes these are essential qualities that need to be nurtured in every child. Yet, not every school or parent is ready to invest in them. 

Based out of Chennai, Mahima attempts to foster social change and enable personal growth through expressive art therapy via various creative drives on her Facebook page. In a conversation with ParentCircle, Mahima tells us  about her efforts to spread love and kindness through her one-of-a-kind initiative. Here are some excerpts from our conversation with her:

How did 'The Kindness Project' come about? 

There is an urgent need to increase empathy in people. Kindness is the layman's term for empathy and the root cause of all suffering is sadly, a lack of empathy. This is such an intangible and often, neglected aspect in our lives. Most people can’t wrap their head around the concept of trying to increase empathy by engaging in intentional acts of kindness.

We noticed that this beautiful project particularly focuses on children. Any reason why?

The emotional well-being of children is usually neglected. We tend to believe that their physical needs — clothes, food, books and toys — are to met. But I have learnt from the wise words of my daughters that, 'Children only really want to play'. They just want to feel joy and that will not come from material things alone. Children are like an open slate and can easily be taught to harness the kindness inherent in them. If we start early and teach them young, we can then tap into the rest of society, for adults often are inspired by the kind acts of children around them.

Tell us more about the fun kindness challenges you host for children from time to time?

The ongoing Kindness Capture-the-Feeling Challenge is doing well, and it is an effort to spread the message that kindness lies in the small acts. It is an effort to encourage people and children to do those small acts in their daily lives to those around them. 

For the challenge, you have to record a video of yourself talking about something kind you did with no expectations; you must also capture how you felt, in one word. Then you have to nominate three more people to take on the challenge and spread kindness like confetti and post on your social media space while tagging The Kindness Project.

How can we take pride and joy in our kind deeds?

Actually, it’s not just about taking pride in your acts of kindness but connecting with how you felt when you did them. It is also about observing and noticing kindness in the world around you. When we only see our own actions and feel pride only in what we did, there is the risk of feeling a sense of self-aggrandisation. A tunnel vision of self-glory. But when we expand our vision to observing it in others, then and only then, do we spread the true feeling of love for all. To bring about change in the way society and the next gen thinks, we must think cohesively as a community and not just for ourselves.

Teaching Kids The Importance Of Kindness
Mahima Poddar — the woman behind The Kindness Project

How have parents and kids responded to your wonderful initiatives?

The response has been overwhelming! When I began, I was unsure that my ideas would take off, as this whole concept is so intangible. But literally everyone has loved the idea and been grateful that someone is taking the initiative to infuse a culture of kindness starting with children. We do not realise it, but every act does indeed inspire others. Our campaign last year brought us touching stories and emails from parents all over. 

A parent from Coimbatore wrote that her child was inspired by the Kindness Week and the Random Acts of Kindness ideas and took it right into her classroom. This little girl created a project of compassion and nature of giving, and the school loved it so much so that they adopted it! And all that from one FB post that she came across. Indeed, kindness just needs a tiny ripple to start a tidal wave!

As a parent, your gestures via your project are a great example to your children. What do your children think about this? 

One day, my daughter came home and told me that a student in her class floated a theoretical 'Would you rather' challenge to everyone. For example, "Would you rather hug a cactus or kick a puppy?" I gasped inwardly and asked her what the responses were like. Apparently, many students were unsure how they would respond and a few even picked kicking the puppy over personal discomfort. But my daughter was aghast! She told me, "Of course, I'd hug the cactus, Mum! How can one cause pain to a creature that cannot defend itself?"

I hear my children make such choices every day and I know we've done something right!

How important is kindness as a virtue to you? Do you stress its importance to your children?

Kindness and empathy are no longer fancy add-ons to a child's growth and development but critical skills to possess. Especially because these qualities can affect our children's future health, authentic happiness, satisfaction in relationships and the ability to bounce back from adversity (to say the least). These can be learned and developed if parents and schools are willing to invest in them. Parents need to lead by example, by setting high ethical standards for themselves. By looking for kinder and more compassionate ways of doing everything in life. But also, to reiterate that one shouldn't mistake kindness for weakness... for it is in the moments that we apply kindness that our true strengths are revealed. It isn't easy to embrace instinctive kindness but it's well worth the effort. After all, being kind is no mean thing!

How do you instil these valuable virtues in your children?

We use the language of Non-Violent Communication (NVC) at home. It is a language from the heart and focuses on feelings and unmet needs of the heart as a tool to understand the actions of self and others. When you are able to look beyond words and connect with what’s really going on in the inner realm beneath the protective facade we put up for the world, you are sharpening your empathetic abilities.

Any memorable or amusing story that you would like to share with us?

My children have always been my teachers. There’s a Zen story I remember reading together with them when they were small that made a huge impact on me. That's because my children applied it immediately in their lives. The story is about a king grappling with the questions "What is the most important place?" "What is the most important time?" and "Who is the most important person?" None of the sycophantic answers from his ministers satisfied him. His search leads him to the cave of a wise monk, who makes him realise that the most important place is where you're standing at a given moment; the most important time is NOW and; the most important person is the one standing in front of you.

A simple story with such depth and wisdom. We try to live by that every day.

In general, what is your parenting style?

Acceptance, joy and unconditional love. Unconditional love is something we all feel for our children but seldom communicate it in a way that they understand. It means you let them know explicitly that no matter what, "I got your back". Letting them know that no matter what they do, you will not stop loving them. Letting them know that our baggage is our own and not for them to carry. Their only job is to take all our love (and only our love) and live their life to the fullest. For, nothing would make us happier than to see our children joyful and content in life!

Any message you would like to share with other parents?

Yes, I have a quote from the Twelfth Doctor! (Doctor Who, BBC series)

Never be cruel never be cowardly,
Remember, hate is always foolish,
And Love is always Wise
Laugh Hard, Run Fast
Be kind.

This Valentine’s Day teach your children to embrace instinctive kindness and spread love and smiles to all. And as parents, be the role model they can look up to. So, what are you waiting for? Start committing those random acts of kindness, today!

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