On Practicing Kindness, and Teaching our Children

Please welcome another DAD FILES post, by High Country Dad, and middle school teacher Richard Tidyman.

Some people plan. Some wait for inspiration. I’ve been accused of being a procrastinator, but I call it “faith that the cosmos will deliver.”  This weekend was a perfect example. Saturday night, when discussing the lesson options for Sunday’s middle school class, a friend suggested etiquette, since religion is all about treating people with kindness anyway.


More specifically, I decided to hone in on the Golden Rule. Scholars refer to this as The Ethic of Reciprocity. All religions have their own version of it, and you can find posters online that show quotes from the sacred books of those religions. I printed out copies of a poster and used it to start of our discussion on Sunday with three youngsters.

I suspected my topic would work after getting an answer to a question to a high school student waiting for his comrades. I said, “Would you say you get compliments a lot, regularly, or rarely?” Sadly, he said rarely. He agreed that if he had gotten five sincere compliments a day, he would definitely be more upbeat. I asked if felt he complemented others regularly, and that too he admitted doesn’t happen often either.

Fortune Cookie Golden Rule

In class, I explained that giving people complements, acts of kindness and consideration and generally doing or saying things to brighten their day is like shooting a soft fluffy tennis ball into the air with an extremely high powered cannon. Knowing what we know about gravity, it will come back to us (don’t get to technical on me…just hear me out). The little acts of appreciation that we send out to others improves their mood, and that act improves our mood too.

The bonus is this: Kindness is contagious.

It might come back to us eventually, or in a roundabout way, but basically, what goes around comes around. Thus the plethora of similar sentiments: karma, full circle, and reap what you sow.

Throughout the hour, the three kids brainstormed complements they could bestow on their family members and friends. I made my own list too. We also tried to list complements we receive and ones we’d like to receive. This was a tough concept, so I had to demonstrate coming up with a compliment I want to receive. None volunteered to compliment me on how terribly dashing I was that day.

It is ironic that I write about this topic. I have not always been particularly complimentary as this required being more outgoing. I wasn’t. My kindergarten teacher told my mom I was abnormally shy. I was painfully shy; I was shy all through high school and much of college. I grew up with six older siblings that unknowingly convinced me that I wasn’t very smart, wasn’t much fun, and didn’t have anything worth saying.

As I got older, with experience and effort, I have mostly overcome my depression inducing inhibitions. In fact, I’veKids on a bench holding handsbeen accused of being embarrassing to be with at times due to my gregariousness.

I enjoyed talking with complete strangers while waiting for the Macy’s day parade. I like grocery store clerks. After scanning a grocery store clerk’s nametag, I ask them by name, if they are having a good day. Then a short but pleasant conversation often takes place.

Being a new teacher in four different schools, an outgoing nature has its rewards. The cafeteria ladies make sure I don’t go hungry, and they smile when they see me coming and anticipate that day’s greeting. “Hey gorgeous” to one and “Whatchya

got cookin’ good lookin’?” to the next.

A friendly greeting, a kind word, a simple complement.

These small simple gestures are painless and free to give but of potential value to the recipient. Kindness can shift one’s thought, at least for a moment, from boredom or doldrums, or brighten one’s day even more than it already is. And that holds true for both the giver and the recipient.

Try to step outside your comfort zone if need be. Share the love. Spread the joy. Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.

How do you teach your children about kindness, and “The Golden Rule?”


  1. Hey, thanks for putting this out there. Sarah, I love what you did with the graphics. I look forward to getting feedback and wonder where the inspiration will come for the next essay.