The unspoken Language of Kindness is understood from a very young age. Children as young as 14 months have been cited to have innate altruistic tendencies. This means that children are born with an unselfish devotion to the welfare of others. The opposite of altruism is egotism. According to Erickson’s theory, the ego identity forms between ages 12-18.
According to a study by researchers Felix Warneken and Michael Tomasello and GreaterGood.Berkeley.edu , they found that several children 18 months old, had an impulse and were motivated to help adults that were having difficulty performing tasks (purposely) even if it meant that the 18 month old child had to disengage from their play. They also found that children’s happiness levels increased when they shared or sacrificed a treat.
As children develop and become more social, they become aware of their surroundings and the behavior of other children around them. Remember the Sesame Street song “One of these things is not like the others?” Children are always trying to fit in and be like everyone else.
When I was 9, I wrote a story about a bee. The bee was yellow and green and “no one liked him because of his colors”, I wrote. I wonder where did I get this idea? The bee was different than the others, but it was sad because in the story, other bees and frogs did not like him. At 9 years old, I was experiencing compassion for a bee that was rejected and disliked because he was different than the others.
I was speaking with a bright young lady recently, and she was telling me a story about how she had encountered a similar situation at school when she was young. She said “I was different than the others, I would get teased and I stood out.” I asked her how she handled it, and she said, “I knew that I had to accept myself and then when I did that, everyone else would accept me.” She said that internal shift did make a difference in how she was treated. I was amazed at her profound wisdom at such a young age.
There are many great children’s books available today, that allow children to embrace all of who they are. One of my favorites, that I would read my children, is No Matter What, by Debi Gliori. This amazing story shows how unconditional love is expressed between a Mother and child. “If I were a grumpy grizzly bear, would you still love me, would you still care? Oh Small, said Large, grumpy or not, I will always love you no matter what.” The story goes on to show that no matter how the child acts and his moods, the Mother still loves him no matter what. This is such a powerful story to let children know that you love and accept them unconditionally, and that they do not need to be perfect for you to love them. This will allow them to love and accept themselves.
Kindness is a way of expressing our inner love, acceptance and compassion for our fellow human being. As we continue to practice it with our young and old alike, we shall make a shift in our world.