Author Karen Whiting is visiting Different Dream today with some ideas from the new book she wrote with co-author Doreen Hanna. Raising a Young Modern-Day Princess is all about growing fruits of the Spirit in little girls. In this post, she shares strategies she learned from experience about cultivating kindness toward children with special needs.
Cultivating Kindness Toward Children with Special Needs
Learning to Help a Brother with Special Needs
Growing up with a brother who was developmentally delayed helped me understand some of the special needs and extra time it takes for some children to learn. But their hearts are often so big and loving. One of my brother’s friends spoke about children being unkind to her. She wasn’t holding a grudge, but said that she didn’t worry about their words because she knew God and her parents loved her. She felt accepted and valued. Those are key to growing the Fruit of the Spirit.
I recall when my mother asked me to teach my brother about money. I took coins and we worked slowly each day on one concept at a time like changing a nickel with five pennies or 2 nickels for a dime. I made up games we played for days at a time until a concept or skill clicked. I knew he could learn but not the same speed or way I learned.
Helping Your Child Understand Kindness
The same ideas work with faith lessons. We want the Fruit of the Spirit to grow in our children, but for special needs children the growing season is longer and parents needs to have those fruits grow in them too, including to continue to be kind when feeling depleted and frustrated.
To grow a fruit we must plant a seed. In cultivating kindness, we must be kind to our children. We can introduce one trait, plant one seed, at a time to our children and not worry about moving to the next until the one clicks. Let’s look at kindness. It’s hard for young children to grasp the idea of being kind to someone.
Identify the trait. When a family member does a kind deed say. “That’s was kind of you.” Or “That shows kindness.” Picture kindness by posting pictures of kind actions. Move on to let your child identify kindness. Use yes and no signs your children can hold and state an action (or hold up a picture) and ask the children if that was kind. Children can hold up the yes or no sign.
Illustrate kindness with touch. Have children touch a pompom or stuffed animal and talk about the softness. Then touch a rock and talk about the hardness. State that being kind is like giving someone something soft, like a word that makes them smile while not being kind is like giving hitting a person with a rock that hurts.
Remember the three Rs of Teaching Children
- Reinforce kindness by praising children with hugs, words, or actions when they shows kindness .
- Use kindness in your routines. For example, tuck children in bed with kind words and a kind hug and state, “I love being kind to you.”
- Remind children that God loves kindness by reading a Scripture related to kindness each morning, such as Ephesians 4:32 or Acts 28:2.
Hopefully, a child with special needs will receive a little kindness and you will, too, by cultivating kindness in your children!
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Karen Whiting is a mother of five and grandmother of 12. She is also the sister of an adult brother who has developmental disabilities. She has other family members with special needs including vision impairment, ADHD, and autism spectrum. She writes to help grow wholesome families. She’s written twenty-two books. Her newest books are Raising a Young Modern Day Princess: Growing the Fruit of the Spirit in Your Little Girl (Focus on the Family) and Christmas is Coming: Waiting is Hard (Abingdon Press). Her minor study in college was child development with an emphasis in child pathology.