I wanted to share a tool that I recently came across for helping both children and adults to develop kindness and empathy to others when carefully choosing their words. This is a particularly useful tool to help our children avoid the harmful effects of gossip. We remember our own parents and teachers telling us, “if you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all.” Which is great advice, but hard to implement in daily life. Whilst providing such advice is good, guiding our children by providing them with tools to use in different situations is more successful in the long term.
When we talk to our children about gossip, we can teach them the horrible effects of that gossip. When I was a child I was taught that even saying nice things behind someone’s back is not a good idea because it can end up inspiring negative talk, such as:
Mary: “Anne is so good at drawing!”
Jane: “Yeah but she’s bad at Maths and last week she took my apple and she is sooooo mean, don’t you think?”
Mary: “Oh yeah, Anne is sooo mean! I heard from Joe, who heard from Mollie that Anne steals food from our bags.”
And so on… Very quickly a compliment can turn into a negative gossip session. Imagine what happens when Anne overhears, or hears (via the grapevine), what her friends have been saying about her. How hurt she would feel!
So let’s teach them how to use the THINK acronym
Before talking about others, always ask yourself:
Is it TRUE?
Is it HELPFUL?
Is it INSPIRING?
Is it NECESSARY?
Is it KIND?
Each time we want to speak about someone else, we need to ask ourselves these questions. Unless the answer is yes to all of them, we do not say it. You could write this on card and put it up in your house, to refer to. You could make this with your children, so that they are invested in it. You should refer to it often – because that is the way to make it a habit of behaviour. I like to ask my children, “What kind of human being do you want to grow into? What values do you want to emulate in your life? How do you want others to see you when you are a grown up?” These are the questions that our little adults-in-training ought to be asking themselves, so that they have moral goals to grow towards. Tools like this help them progress toward those goals.
Of course we do not want to discourage our children from talking to parents or telling them about social situations that they might need guidance to work through. Sharing with our teachers and parents is part of the learning process. The emphasis should be on avoiding gossip within the playground and between peers, and even more importantly on personal moral development.
And of course as adults we need to model this behaviour ourselves, otherwise all the talking in the world is useless.
Let’s teach our children to be kind and thoughtful in their words, to hold love in their hearts, thus promoting a peaceful society.
Have a peaceful weekend,