A Reflection on Kindness

  • Post by The Not So Down and Out Mom
  • Jul 31, 2021

There was an “incident” at my son’s camp a few weeks ago. Well, I wouldn’t really call it an “incident” because things like this happen all of the time, but I guess I can refer to it more as a reflective moment for me as a parent. My son, Miles, is six years old and attends a recreational camp in our town. He loves it. He gets to run around with his friends all summer, what’s not to love? I remember dropping him off on the first day of camp and he had that nervous look on his face: he was so afraid he wouldn’t know anyone. By the time I came back to pick him up he was not ready to leave!

Things seemed to be going well. Every day after camp I’d ask him about his day. I ask all of the usual questions: What activities did you do? Did you eat a snack? Who did you play with? Were you nice to everyone? Was everyone nice to you? The answers have typically been the same: “I played outside, I ate my snack, I played with the kids from my class, I was nice to everyone, and everyone was nice to me.” On one particular day, however, the answer to the last question was, “Well, not really.”

“Not really? What do you mean ‘not really’??"

“Well, one kid that I don’t really know was playing with us and called me a mean name."

“What did he call you? And what did you do after he said it?"

“I don’t remember what word he used, but I just walked away."

At that moment I felt a little relieved for a few reasons. I was glad that it was something more minor like name-calling that he barely remembers, and I was even more glad that he didn’t inherit his mom’s approach of snapping back at them like a crazy person. With all of that said, though, I knew that his feelings were hurt. I could hear it in his voice. Someone said something to him and it brought him down. This whole exchange caused me to sit in my own thoughts and self-reflect a bit.

Words Matter

To a grown adult, hearing your child say they’re upset because someone called them a name might seem arbitrary. It’s just a name, ignore it and move on. It’s not so simple, though, when you’re a child. Kids are too young to understand how to let things go. They’re not yet developmentally ready to process the idea that words don’t always need to be taken literally. The only response I was able to give Miles when he reported this all to me was, “Okay, well you be sure to strongly say ‘Please do not call me names again’”. Easier said than done, I know. It was just all I could think of at the moment.

The whole incident really gave me pause. At 36 years old, if someone calls me a name my response is to call them a name back and then never interact with them again. I think it’s so much easier to just snap back at the person, but really what I need to remember- what we all need to remember- is that more often a person says something unkind because they themselves are battling something inward. That doesn’t excuse anyone, but it hopefully can put others into a mindset of patience and understanding.


I’m not going to preach kindness without reflecting back on myself a bit. I have not always been a kind person. As a kid I remember having such a desire to fit in and sometimes fitting in meant being mean to others. Pretty common story, right? There wasn’t such an emphasis in school to “not follow the crowd”. I just don’t think the adults of that time really enforced kindness. There weren’t academic initiatives devoted to teaching appropriate social skills. I’m not blaming any of this on my own jerky tendencies, but looking back, I don’t think I really knew any better. My parents were always kind people to others. I grew up with exemplary people that demonstrated kindness all of the time…but I, for one reason or another, didn’t always follow that. I think back to one particular time in elementary school where I made a comment about another person who was heavier. I still cannot believe I said it. It was so mean! Why did I think that was okay? The only thing I can hope for is that the person I said it to doesn’t remember it. And if they do, then I sure do wish they knew how sorry I am for ever thinking that behavior was okay.

A few weeks ago I found a meme online about a certain celebrity and a haircut they got. The meme was definitely making fun of them. I sent it in a group chat to a few of my good friends from high school and one of the women in the chat, who epitomizes confidence and kindness, called me out very gently. She reminded me that this particular celebrity had been dealing with a lot of mental health issues and maybe we shouldn’t make fun of her haircut. She was right! There I was, again, seeing something that others found funny and just running with it. In hindsight, I should not have sent out this meme. It wasn’t nice! This scenario didn’t totally cure me of my meme-surfing. I still find memes that I think are hilarious, but at their core are making fun of others. But at least my friend helped to make me more aware. There are still things that I see on the internet that I roll my eyes at or poke fun at. I am still human. I’m still working on filtering through my own sense of humor. I’m not 100% there, and may never be, but I’m a work in progress.

Let’s Reflect Together

Okay, so why am I telling you all of this on a parenting blog? Let me circle back to Miles at camp. I don’t know what exactly was said to him that made him so upset. The person who said it to him probably thought they were being funny and no one was around to tell him that it was not. What Miles did remember very clearly was that a few of his friends saw that he was upset and came up to him and helped him feel better (side note: I’m super grateful that my kid has found such a nice group of friends!) The kindness truly stood out in his mind more so than the rude comment the other child made. So, what does this mean for us as parents? Well, I think it helps us to actually have meaningful conversations with our kids about how to approach situations like this. What would a discussion about this look like? Here are a few things you can say to your child:

  1. Has anyone ever been unkind to you? How did that make you feel?

  2. What are some smart ways you can respond to another person who has made you feel badly?

  3. If you see someone being unkind to another person, what could you do as a bystander?

  4. Why do you think that person chose to be mean? Let’s think about what they might be feeling.

  5. If you see a friend who looks lonely or upset, what could you do to help them?

This is such a huge worry for most parents: “what happens when others are unkind to my child?” I think sometimes it’s even more worrisome when you have a child with special needs. Not every kid is taught at home how to be accepting to others that are very obviously different from them. The journey to kindness is not always an easy one. I, for one, am still a work in progress. But if you’re my friend or my family and you think I’m being unkind, call me out. My only hope is that when someone is being hurtful to one of my kids, the bystanders will call them out.

So, parents, let’s make a pact. Let’s all mutually agree that we are going to make a concerted effort to teach our kids how to be nice to others and how to stand up to those that are not being nice. If we can agree on this, then together we can all raise confident and kind kids. What’s better than that?

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