Do you ever feel like you spend more time disciplining or correcting your kids than you do encouraging them?
Part of my quest for minimalism is to slow down and focus on what really matters, and in the process, I’ve realized that while I’ve been consistently disciplining, I have not been consistently encouraging. I’m spending a lot of time focusing on what I don’t want the kids to do, and not enough time focusing on what I really want them to do.
Positive reinforcement stopped being an intentional thing, and was only brought out after a poor action or behaviour occurred so it often occurred like a bribe. We were operating in survival mode, and honestly, it wasn’t going to last much longer.
This simple idea of a paper chain of kindness, created through the children’s choices and actions, has transformed that.
I was trying to figure out a way for the kids to start acknowledging each other’s kind choices. I wanted them to start seeking the good in each other and, by acknowledging it, encourage more kind acts in turn.
I originally thought about using these tokens that we’ve had in our peace corner for the past year, but I wanted something:
- visually encouraging – something all of the children would see often and feel encouraged by
- ongoing – nothing that I would need to limit or could potentially run out of, because kindness never runs out
- collaborative – something that acknowledged that a single act of kindness contributed to the whole group
- beautiful – something that the children would love and cherish and want to nurture
- open-ended – something where children could acknowledge each other, themselves, or others
I started off by leaving this innocent-looking cutting exercise out for the children. Just straight lines on various pieces of construction paper, and a basket to receive all of the finished strips. (I also cut several pages of strips myself, just in case.)
Once we had a good rainbow of colours in the basket, I gathered the children together for a talk about kindness.
We talked about what kindness is and how it made us feel. We talked about all of the different forms of kindness – kind words, kind actions, kind hands, and kind thoughts.
I asked the children to think of kind things that they had done or experienced that day and started writing them on the strips of paper. (Older children could write their own.)
When they couldn’t think of anymore things to have me write, I started making a paper chain out of the strips.
As I showed them how the chain gets constructed, I talked about how when someone does something kind to us, we feel good and want to do something kind for another person, and then that can make them feel good and want to do something kind themselves.
When I had finished adding all of the strips to our chain, I asked the children if they thought that they could do more kind things so we could add them to the chain. They were so excited by the idea.
I suggested that we put the paper chain of kindness up in the work room, and that whenever someone did or experienced a kind thing, that they could come to me and we would add another “link” to the chain — and maybe, if we did enough kind things, we could make the chain go all the way around the room!
I love so much about this new ongoing project.
I love that it encourages each individual child to be kind.
I love that the children are developing a habit of acknowledging and recognizing kindness – and not taking each other for granted.
I love that I get to hear about all of the kind things and gain a deeper understanding of how each child interprets kindness, and in turn, love.
While we don’t want children to only choose kindness for the acknowledgement it can give them, I think this paper chain of kindness is a great way of creating a culture and a habit of kindness. In addition, it teaches gratitude and the importance of stopping to recognize others.
I’ve stored the strips in a rainbow pattern, so that we can have little rainbow throughout our chain. (It looks cute and I love the symbolism.)
How have you encouraged your children to be kind? Would you do a paper chain of kindness?
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