Bedtime for my 4-year-old is question time in my house. I get asked everything, ‘Why am I not in your tummy anymore Mummy?’, ‘Can I marry you and Daddy when I grow up?’ and a personal favourite ‘Can I live with you forever?’ I love the way her mind works and how she’s constantly learning with her everlasting questions.
One night, she asked me… ‘Mummy, what does hate mean?’ I wasn’t expecting to be as shocked as I was. It hadn’t occurred to me that hearing it from my 4-year-old would have such an impact on me. Where did she hear it? Had someone said it to her? Did she hear it from me? I used to say it about such trivial things… ‘I hate washing up.’ I’d say to my husband. ‘I hate folding clothes!’ he’d say back to me.
Every word I use resonates with her deeply. It was just a word we used in everyday life but, being asked about hate by a 4-year-old made me realise that it has so much more meaning to it than the flippant way we were using it. It’s such a strong word and one we don’t use anymore. It’s been so easy not to because, in fact, there’s nothing I actually HATE when I truly think about it. It turns out, she’d heard it in a song.
There may come a day when someone says ‘I hate you’ to her and I can’t stop what other people say to her. What I can do is communicate with her and help her to understand other people. I can help her understand the meaning of the words she uses and I can prepare her to deal with the words that are spoken to her. I can teach her kindness and empathy so she never has to use such a strong word.
Empathy and kindness are forces of GOOD! Developing them early on in a child’s life is important for them to be able to understand how others are feeling whilst building a sense of security for them. It allows them to develop and maintain stronger relationships with their friends, family, and teachers.
Research indicates that being able to empathise is important for good mental health.
We’ve found this awesome list of 35 books from the Huffington Post that promote empathy and kindness in kids. ‘Listening with my Heart’ by Gabi Garcia is a fav in our house.
Click here for the full list.