“Be nice!” is always the catch phrase around the playground as your child is interacting with other children, right? I used to say it. I think kids do understand what it might mean but if asked to put what it means into words? Impossible.
Being nice is a crazy, illogical concept to try to teach a child. “Nice” is a nonsense word. There is no real-life model of “nice.” Not unless your child overhears a teen talking about someone of the opposite sex. At that point the word is drawn out and emphasized and one hopes the infant doesn’t understand the nuance.
When I was in middle school (we called it junior high during the ice ages), some boys at the back of the bus asked me if I was a nice girl or a good girl. I was puzzled at their curiosity. I thought about it for all of one second and replied that I was “nice”. Their response was laughter. It wasn’t until I was much older and wiser (possibly high school) that I got it. I would have explained the question’s answer of “nice” as in being virtuous, but that wasn’t part of their definition.
Do you understand what those nasty, back-of-the-bus boys meant?
Here it is: A “nice” girl gives in to a boy’s demand for sex, and a “good” girl is good at it. So there was no correct answer to their question. The clue was their ages. I mean, what else do boys of that age think about?
All of which leads me back to the question of – what actual real-life model do we have for the definition of being nice that has to do with inner qualities instead of looks?
Good is easier to understand. We know that in doing positive things for others we are doing good, such as in doing “good works.” Good might even mean correct. “Good” is never the answer to “How are you?” Good attached to other words gives them a positive spin – words such as: night, bye, egg, book, enough, and lots of other words.
Anything with positive qualities, and moral excellence is a good thing. Thank you, Martha Stewart. But how to explain it to a child? Ummmm.
Nice is that much more difficult to define for a child.
Face it, people. “Nice” doesn’t cut it on the playground.
The only way to explain nice, or being nice, is to turn the concept on the negative. For example: When Tim shoves Sam – it is highly probable that someone will tell Tim he wasn’t playing “nice.”
As a grandparent of a nine-month old these are things I think about. What I mean to say is that we need to re-evaluate our language and perhaps use the word – “kind” more often.
I’m not a revolutionary. People are writing and blogging on this at this moment. There is the “kindness counts” movement afoot. Big Bird has a kindness counter where kids can write in and tell what they did for someone else. (Usually moms tell it, which is highly appropriate.) Big Bird adds another point to the big counter thingy. There is a section on the Sprout morning show where kids are acknowledged for their acts of kindness, especially to baby brothers and sisters. It’s so cute! I applaud these programs for their emphasis on this. Kindness should be acknowledged and rewarded.
How many terrible things could be averted by small acts of kindness?
Kind when used to demonstrate a behavior can be defined as showing tenderness, being helpful, thinking about the other person first as in being considerate. Kindness is a good thing. Kindness can be agreeable. Kindness can offer comfort. Kindness can be tolerant and forgiving during a dispute. Kindness can be gentle, can offer sympathy, and be generous when sharing.
Kindness is something that can be taught to children in a way that they can understand and implement in every aspect of their young lives. A child naturally is attracted to agreement in a group in order to fit in. Practicing kindness will speed them on their way.
The Biblical admonition “Be ye kind to one another…” is not out of place here. You see, kindness engenders kindness. In Proverbs it is written, “A gentle answer turns away wrath”. Can we teach that? How many fights would finish before they were begun?
Be kind, always. Do good everywhere.
And remember … Nice is for suckers.