Acknowledging the Kindness In Children

I remember reading a Dear Abby column once when I was a teen that talked about the importance of acknowledging good behavior in children.  Dear Abby suggested if you see children with good manners at a restaurant or behaving admirably on a plane, be sure to tell the parents and the children.

Imagine how proud both parent and child would be if you said, “I am so impressed with the good table manners of your children,” or “your children were a pleasure to have on this flight — thank you for their good behavior.”

That thought has stuck with me, and I have strived to make it a part of my life.  This brings to mind my neighbor, who is a kind and well mannered boy of 13.  Three years ago, I sent my kindergartner to school on the bus for the first time.

Our neighbor, who was in fifth grade at the time, took it upon himself to offer to walk her from the bus to the class.  Not only did my daughter feel proud of her independence that first day of school by riding the bus, but she just glowed when the neighbor she adored stepped up to escort her to class.

As soon as I heard the story of what happened, I marched next door to thank both the boy and let his parents know what a kind act he had done that day at school.

A few months later, this same boy was playing in his backyard while I had taken my two children (then ages 6 and 3) to the church parking lot in our neighborhood to ride bikes.  My 3 year old was a bit of a bike prodigy, and he got going faster than I expected and soon looped around the parking lot out of sight.  I started running after him and calling his name, afraid that at the end of the parking lot, he wouldn’t know to stop where the lot met the street.

Our neighbor and his friend heard me calling after my son, and they left the trampoline they were bouncing on and ran across the street to help me find my son.  Now, my son really wasn’t LOST, per se, but it really touched me that these two fifth graders would so valiantly come to my assistance.  I thanked them profusely, and their chests puffed up with pride as I acknowledged their good deed.

Later that night, I approached the mothers of the two boys.  I said, “I just had to tell you something about your boys,” I started.  They turned and their eyes got big, and I realized that they probably assumed I had a complaint.  I quickly jumped in with how impressed I was that they had come to my aid, and how much their chivalry meant to me.  Their expressions quickly turned to grins, and I’m sure they shared the sentiment with their sons that evening.

As we teach the next generation how to interact with people, the act of acknowledging acts of kindness or good manners goes a long way in enforcing such positive behaviors.

I challenge you this weekend — find a child that is doing something good, and make a BIG deal out of it.  Make a point to talk to both the parent and the child about what you noticed, and witness what it feels like to completely make someone’s day.