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The Kindness Revolution

Being little themselves, young children love to retell the Aesop fable of The Lion and the Mouse to anyone who would listen. The moral is rarely lost on them: "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." It shouldn't be lost on adults, either.

A little kindness goes a long way, and makes a particular difference in the home. Kindness and compassion are part of the moral makeup, and children who abound in these traits grow up to be successful and intelligent members of society. We ask Dr Daniel, a child psychiatrist these questions. 

Kind People Are Often Taken Advantage Of. Do You Agree?

No. Kindness will enable us to make others feel good, and it's like the saying that a soft answer will sooth anger. Kindness begets kindness, and it's the principle behind paying it forward.

How Can Parent Teach A Child About Limits And Boundaries Without reneging On The Kindness Principle?

Discipline is not about giving everything that the child wants. Good discipline means that parents should be firm about rules without necessarily being harsh. Kindness does not mean spoiling a child. Rules and punishments are necessary means of helping children learn limits, and parents can do this without becoming excessively angry and emotional.

Do Adult Typically React Inappropriately To Children Who Display Kindness By Wanting To Help? How So?

Parents may stop a child from helping, fearing that they may make a mistake and cause a problem. For example, a child who wants to carry some biscuits for the guests in a porcelain plate may be taken over by the parents. Or worse still, the mother may say, "Don't do that... You might break the plate."

What Would Be The Better Way?

Allow the child to serve, but offer a plastic plate instead. I£ he drops it he can always get more, and he will learn to be careful and independent, besides being kind.

How Do Siblings Come Into Play In The Role-modelling Of Kindness? What of sibling rivalry?

Siblings help a child learn to share and work as a team. Sibling rivalry is common, but such competition also helps a child learn about sportsmanship, etc. It's the role of parents and other care-giving adults to help moderate this.

As A Practising Child Psychiatrist, What Is Your Worst Experience Of A Poor Model Of Kindness Within A Family Situation?

I think every family is unique and there is no family where people are just unkind all the time, unless the parents or caregivers are abusing the child (and that is less than 0.1 per cent o£ families). Most of the time, parents flit between being a good model of courtesy and shoeing compassion, to moments (or fits) of being unkind, hurtful or just plain "losing their heads". I remember one family in which the mother, stressed by the family finances and mildly depressed, would frequently hurt her children by calling them names. The children became quite reserved and had difficulties expressing themselves.

What Problems Did This Present In The Children?

One child was so reserved that he looked like a scared animal despite being in a very cheerful and friendly environment. He was also not growing well and was stunted in growth. Emotional abuse of children can lead to psychosocial dwarfism, and he was exhibiting some signs of this.


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