Be nice to the new kid.
Notice the kids that are usually alone at lunch, sit with them.
If you see someone playing alone, ask them to play with you.
These are very familiar phrases.
Parents often say these phrases to their children on a weekly basis during the school year. We all desire the same thing: for our kids to feel like they belong and for them to show kindness to everyone, not just popular kids.
But while we are teaching our kids to be nice to the new kid, sit with the kid that doesn’t have any friends, play with the kid that no one wants to play with, we fail to teach them to also be kind to the kids that do! We fail to let them see the other side. The kids who muster up the courage and go against the norm and actually do sit with the kid who is alone at lunch, or that actually do play with the kid who no one wants to play with.
Those kids are the real heroes.
They get judged and bullied too. For being “friends with the weird kid.” They get judged and often ignored because “oh you must like getting in trouble since you hang out with her.”
Unfortunately and fortunately, making judgments is something we do without even thinking about it. It’s a part of us that we use to protect ourselves and respond to different situations. We rely on our observations and past experiences to quickly decide how to react. But children are born with compassion, a natural instinct to help others. And it is our responsibility as parents, to teach them about different approaches in a non-judgmental way.
So, celebrate differences and find teachable moments to emphasize the importance of stepping up and being that friend. But if they can’t, to at least be nice and recognizing those who do.
Until next time, “a warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” – William Arthur Ward.