I just finished reading the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It’s one of those books every person should read.
In short, it’s about an ordinary 5th-grade boy with an extraordinary face. Due to various health conditions including a facial deformity, Auggie (the main character) has never attended mainstream school. All changes when he starts to attend Beecher Prep School for 5th grade.
Will the kids in his class be kind?
The book got me thinking about the world we live in today. We have the opportunity to make our opinion known but sometimes without concern for others. Whoever said “sticks and stones may break my bones but words never will” was way off base.
Words have tremendous power for good but they can also slay. It’s a hard concept for adults to learn, let alone kids, so how do we teach our children that their words are powerful?
The Crinkled Heart Lesson
When I taught first grade, I started every school year with a little exercise, and I have repeated it with my own kids because it powerfully illustrates the power of your words.
We started by cutting out a large heart of construction paper. Then, we would take turns thinking of kind words and compliments to write on the heart.
We would then pass it around and share words that were mean and unkind. As we did so, we would scrunch the heart until it was a sad, crumpled piece of paper. We would talk about how we feel when unkind things are said to us. When we were finished sharing, I would take the paper heart and slowly smooth out the heart as best as I could.
I would share that an apology is helpful and can smooth out some of the wrinkles but the heart still holds the scars of the words that crumpled it. So, rather than use words that wrinkle hearts, we should use words that help hearts.
Three Questions to Ask Before Speaking
Words slip off the tongue so fast but it’s important for us to teach kids to think before speaking. When my kids say something unkind (usually to their sibling), I ask them 3 questions:
- Is it true?
- Is it kind?
- Is it necessary?
It might be true and necessary, but if you say it in a way that is unkind, the message will be lost on the person you are trying to express it too. As a parent, we can help our child rephrase what they would like to say kindly. If it’s not true or not necessary, we can teach our children not to say it all.
Lead By Example
We have all heard it said, more is caught than taught.
Kids don’t live in a vacuum. They are listening to what we say and how we say it. I cringe sometimes when my kids sound just like me, maybe you do too. The best way to teach our kids to use kind words is to lead by example.
If we think before we speak and ask ourselves those 3 questions. Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? We can be the change we all want to see in the world.
It’s often the simplest changes that make the biggest difference. Let’s look for opportunities to share a compliment and build people up and when we do make a mistake, let’s let our children see us apologize and make amends.
Everyone we know is fighting a battle we may never see so it’s always good practice to be “kinder than necessary” and use our words to build up rather than tear down. Our kids will follow our lead.