Many of my friends and I have hit a major milestone in the last month. We have selected and enrolled our children in kindergarten for the coming school year. In the wake of this major life event for our family, I've been thinking harder now than ever before about how our schools can be loving, warm, and accepting places. How can we encourage our children to be compassionate and kind to everyone, no matter what? Including those children who are seen as "mean" or "different"?
I recently came across a TED talk about a teacher who created an activity in her classroom called "Secret Kindness Agents." In an effort to make their school a more warm and accepting place, the students brainstormed ideas that would spread kindness throughout their building, ranging from delivering a kind note to an unpopular staff member to picking up trash on the school campus. They had code names and performed each act of kindness anonymously. It was so encouraging to hear the resulting atmosphere of love and compassion this class and the entire school experienced as a result of their missions.
I decided to put this idea into practice with my own children at home, at my son's preschool, and in our community.
I am a believer in combining play and our children's natural interests with kindness. This helps reinforce the idea that giving to others is fun. It is not something forced upon us, but something we naturally can enjoy and want to do. For example, my boys are currently into anything superhero related. They have Superhero dress-up costumes, games, and Legos.
Because this is their current obsession, I thought the idea of performing acts of Superhero Kindness would not only be motivating but would also help me explain the importance and benefit of anonymous acts of kindness. The idea of secret/anonymous acts of kindness is a little abstract for little ones, but it was easier to explain it with the superhero theme.
Here's what we did:
First, I started the conversation with my kids by talking about their favorite Superheros and why they are "heroic." I tried to steer them away from comments about fighting crime and focused more on the following:
- Superheroes are heroes because they take care of people who are hurt, sad, or in trouble.
- They make people feel better by saving them from things that might harm them.
- Sometimes things that harm people are not physical things like a fight or a "bad guy," but are sad events, unkind words, or feeling unappreciated.
- Superheroes are heroes to others by making them feel better or happier.
Second, we talked about why many superheros wear masks. Superheros wear masks to remain anonymous (i.e., to keep who they are a secret). I asked the kids why a superhero might want to keep his or her identity secret. One major reason is that we should be kind to others NOT because we expect a reward or recognition. We should simply be kind because it is the right thing to do. We don't always need others to know who was being kind. We are giving of ourselves selflessly.
Third, we brainstormed ideas of simple, anonymous acts of kindness we could perform to make someone happy without them even knowing it was us. Each of us came up with one secret act of kindness we wanted to do for someone:
- My youngest son wanted to deliver a card to a friend anonymously.
- My oldest son made an adorable tissue paper heart for a little boy who other children often describe as "not very nice." I explained to him that kids who "act out" are often the ones who need kindness and love more than anyone else. Maybe by modeling and showing him kindness, he can learn to pass on kindness, too. He decided to make an anonymous heart that said, "I hope this heart brightens your day. Love, a friend."
- My idea: An employee at the grocery store we frequent is one of the kindest, friendliest, and hardest working men I've ever met. He always fills me with joy, and I wonder how often someone tells him how wonderful he is. So, I decided to write a thank-you card to express how much we appreciate him, his smiling face, and his hard work.
Fourth, we designed Superhero Kindness Calling Cards. With each card, gift, or kind act we completed, we left behind these calling cards which read, "We all can be superheroes by spreading kindness. Pass it on!"
Finally, we completed our Superhero Kindness Missions, delivering the cards (anonymously) to others. My kids even dressed up as superheros for part of the project.
There you have it! A simple, fun project to brighten someone's day. We all can be superheroes by spreading kindness. Let's keep passing it on!
If you would like a free copy of the Superhero Kindness cards to print on cardstock, you can get your copy here!
What do you think? How else can we be someone's superhero?