I am sure many of you have seen the movie Pay It Forward, or have read the book, of the same name, written by Catherine Ryan Hyde. It is a story about a young boy who did three good deeds for others in need. In return, all that the child wanted from the receiver, was for him/her to now become the giver, and pay the kindness forward to three other people and so on ~ keeping the cycle going.
I have always been fascinated by this concept, but the more and more I thought about the wide-spread effects that this movement could have, the more my fascination became passion. As a child behaviorist, I am always looking for creative ideas to motivate and encourage positive behavior in children, while teaching them appreciation, compassion, and self-esteem. What is great about this movement, is that it can be implemented into anyone’s life, at any time, by any age, gender, or culture group. All that is required, is doing something nice for another person ~ without any expectation of receiving anything in return.
“When a person experiences that brief shining moment where they go beyond what is expected of them and do something for another person for no reason other than love, then that is the best emotion a person can feel. One unique thing about these deeds is that they are unconditional. This means that regardless of what someone might have done to you or might not have done for you, the kind act will still exist.”
~Quote from a High School Student
I have done “Pay It Forward” Projects with all age groups and ability levels, but where I think the lesson of Pro-Kindness is most effective is with children ages four through eight. This message needs to start with our youngest generations in hopes that they will carry the foundations of this movement with them as they get older. http://payitforwardday.com has several examples of lesson plans for schools and parents to implement and encourage the act of altruistic giving. The following are some of my favorite ideas for helping the kids ages four to eight, learn how to use Pro-Kindness in their everyday life.
PAY IT FORWARD TREE A huge leafless tree is drawn and painted by the students and displayed in the school foyer. These students also design the leaves which are photocopied on various shades of green card and printed out, along with a fewer number of spectacular flowers. [refer to the Giving Tree in Shel Silverstein’s book] Whenever a child is seen to be doing a good deed or tells a teacher that he/she has done a good deed [the little ones in particular can’t wait to tell the teacher about their good deeds], he/she is given a leaf with his/her name on it. This is then placed on the tree. (It would also be good for the good deed to be written on the back of the leaf, for future teaching opportunities) For every five [ten ?] leaves placed on the tree, a flower is then added. This is a visual representation of kindnesses shown within the school community. Children could also be asked to give out leaves to teachers they see being particularly kind. To ‘pay it forward’, the school or the P & C could plant a garden [The Kindness Garden], representing all the flowers on the foyer mural, the Pay It Forward Tree. OR …. a local business might offer to donate groceries, clothing, goods to a local refuge when the tree has 100 flowers…..This age group usually does need a lot of positive reinforcement and rewards during this process.
PHOTOS – WANTED POSTERS In a school in New Jersey, teachers take photos of the students who have been observed doing a good deed. The photo is attached to a WANTED poster ……..WANTED……CAUGHT BEING KIND! These posters are displayed around the school.
My favorite tool in teaching this concept to children, is the GOOD DEEDS JAR. The concept is simple; when they do a good deed or when someone else sees them do a good deed, they get a marble in their jar. Constant encouragement is very helpful in this process and rewarding good behavior for younger kids may be needed ~ When you fill the jar, we will_________. It would be great if the reward was about giving as well.
Because kids tend to be visual learners, age appropriate books and activities (like shown above) are necessary tools for teaching kids about the importance of giving to others. When looking for a book, with a good moral message, for my friend’s son, I came across this book.
This book explains that we all have invisible buckets of water over our heads.
The negative actions of others toward us can empty the buckets, and our own
meanness toward them can deplete their buckets, too. Positive actions fill the buckets.
The Good Deeds Jar reinforces the lesson of the book perfectly. Fill your bucket with marbles when you are lifting people up, and lose a marble when you are not being nice or when you are not following directions. I think that it is also important for parents to have some reflection time with their children, so that they can praise them for the good choices that they made that day, and to also talk through the childs not so good choices (why they did it….what would have been a better choice). This book, and other books on the topic, for various ages, can be found on Amazon.com.
Remember, these acts of kindness, do not have to be big. It could be taking a friends tray up at lunch, picking up trash from off the ground, or making someone smile. Kindness doesn’t cost a lot or take up very much time, but it does have an everlasting effect on the person who received it!
For more information about the movement, ideas for random acts of kindness, and free resources, visit http://payitforwardday.com/
PAY IT FORWARD DAY is Thursday, April 25, 2013
What are you going to do to make a difference in someone elses life?