As parents, we want the very best for our kids. However, as the world becomes more connected, desensitized, and seemingly more harsh, my aspirations list for my kids becomes shorter and increasingly simplified. As my son started third grade, I wanted to remind him what’s really important and what things our family values and deems successful. I also wanted to remind him we are always in his corner.
Teaching my 3rd Grader About Kindness
You are about to start 3rd grade. I can’t believe how fast you are growing and how proud you make me. The word looks a bit different now than when I was in school, but so many things remain the same. I know you will face similar situations. There will be times when you will be nervous, uncomfortable, and scared and that’s okay. In these moments is when we are being molded into the person we are growing up to be. Sometimes we will have success and other times we will be a big failure. Both of these outcomes make us grow. These are never wasted moments.
I remember when I was in 3rd grade.There was this boy in our class. He was different than everyone else. He looked differently, dressed differently, and he talked differently. Everyone, including me, pretended for a long time that he wasn’t there. He didn’t come from where we did. He didn’t talk like we did. As silly as it sounds, I think we all felt that if we talked to him, we would become “different” just like he was. I knew he was sad. I wished that he would do something so that he would be included and popular. But instead, I watched him get teased and bullied. I stood by and did nothing, all the while waiting for someone to step in and do something. I still think about that kid today. I wonder what it would be like to be surrounded by people who pretended you weren’t there. Or worse, knew you were there but made you wish you weren’t. I was a bully. I may not have teased him or said cruel words, but I stood by and did nothing and that is being a bully, too.
As you enter a new school year, I want you to do something for me. I want you to start noticing your surroundings. I want you to pretend you are a classmate who is looking at you. How do they see you? Is Christopher the kid who always says “hello” to all his classmates, or does he go straight to his seat without a word? Does he help a friend if they drop something on the floor, or does he just walk on by? Does Christopher invite a kid to play if he notices he is by himself on the playground, or does he ignore him completely? Is Christopher a bully?
Every year as you get older, the kids and adults that surround you are going to be different than you. They are going to talk differently, dress differently, their families may look different than yours, they may have different beliefs than yours. Maybe these kids will be bullied. Sometimes people are scared of what they don’t understand, and rather than try to find out, they are mean and try to make others feel alone. Many times those that feel alone lose their voice. They don’t know how to stand up for themselves, and feel scared to defend themselves and their differences. Be their voice when they lose theirs, because sometimes another voice helping them is all they need to realize they don’t need to change, and are perfect the way they are. Differences are not a threat to you, but quite the opposite. How awesome is it to be surrounded by so many new experiences and so much diversity…the amount you can learn from each other is far greater than if you were surrounded with others who are just like you. Ask questions, listen to their stories, and be respectful of their differences.
I know you may not think it is ‘cool’ to do all these things. But I will tell you what is cool…a kid who is kind to everyone. Your dad and I don’t care if you are the smartest kid, the best athlete, the class clown, but we most certainly care that you are ALWAYS KIND. This is non-negotiable. If I had to choose between you getting a 100% on your math test or inviting a classmate to play because he was playing alone, I would choose being kind to the classmate EVERY SINGLE TIME. I promise if you focus on being kind, you will be successful.
I will continue to ask you “how did you help someone today?” when you come home from school. I will call you when you are an adult and ask you this as well, so don’t ever break the habit. In this world, we need each other and we belong to each other. Your heart grows bigger and stronger when you choose kindness and compassion over hatred and ignorance.
My beautiful son. I know you will do great things, and all great things starts with kindness.
I love you.