October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, so at KidSnips, we’re donating $1 to the Global Down Syndrome Foundation with every haircut Monday through Wednesday. Bringing your kids in for a cut — and maybe getting one for yourself — is a great way to start a conversation about being kind to everyone, even if they seem different from you.
A few years ago, when my daughter was in first grade, she came home from school aghast that another child in her class had been calling other kids in class a bad word. “What word did they use?” I asked her. “The S-word,” she told me, her eyes wide. I ran through any curse words I could think of that started with “s” and finally asked her what word it was. “It was really bad, Mom,” she told me.. And hesitantly she lowered her voice to a whisper and said, “The word was ‘stupid!’”
Words like “stupid” or “dumb” or even “crazy” are common in our culture, but sometimes we don’t think about the impact they have, especially when we’re using them to describe other people. And when our kids hear us using them, they might start calling other kids these names and other “bad names” too. It’s important to help our kids understand that words can hurt. Here are a few ways you can teach your children the power of words and how to use them to be kind, not hurtful.
1. Teach them about labels.
Labeling things and people comes naturally to us—it’s something we’re taught to do as soon as we can talk. Babies and toddlers give everyone a label—like “mom” or “dad” or “sister”—to better understand who people are. Unfortunately, though, labelling often carries on throughout our life, and we continue boiling people down to one label rather than getting to know them.
You can help your child understand that labels don’t always work by asking them questions like, “Would you want all the kids in your class to think of you as the short kid?” Or, “If you were playing tag on the playground and lost, would you want the other kids to call you a loser?” Of course not! Because your child isn’t just tall or short or blonde or brunette—they’re silly and smart and creative, too. Explain to your kid that there is more to people than the one thing they might notice when they meet someone new. So instead of calling other kids names, maybe they can ask a classmate they don’t know very well to sit with them at lunch or play with them on the playground and get to know more about them.
2. Help them put themselves in another kid’s shoes.
You’ve probably heard the famous quote from To Kill a Mockingbird: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” You can help your child “walk around in someone else’s skin” to understand other kids’ perspectives. Talk through a scenario with them—for example, what if they were in a wheelchair and everyone made fun of them or called them names? How would they feel? They might feel embarrassed, lonely, sad, or they might not even want to go back to school again. Putting themselves in another kid’s shoes can help children understand why they should be nice to each other—because they wouldn’t want to be called mean names, either.
3. Teach them about different kinds of kids (and how they’re not so different).
Kids usually label other kids who are different from them because they don’t understand them. Teaching them about other kids can help them see that they’re not so different after all. For example, if they encounter a child with Down syndrome, you can show them a fun, educational video like this one. Or check out our #KidSnipsShoutout this month—the recently released movie The Peanut Butter Falcon, which tells the story of a man with Down syndrome following his dream to become a wrestler. It’s a great way to teach your kids about people who don’t look or talk exactly like them—just be aware that it’s rated PG-13, so it may not be appropriate for really little ones.
4. Set an example.
This might sound simple, but sometimes we aren’t even aware of how often we’re using negative words like “dumb” or “lame.” When you’re out and about with your kids, make sure that you’re using positive language. You might even go the extra mile and make positive comments about other people. When you see other kids in the grocery store, point out how kind they’re being to each other or how nice their hair looks. Emphasizing the good in everyone will encourage your child to do the same.
5. Spread kindness…in all kinds of ways.
You’ve probably heard the quote, “Throw Kindness Like Confetti” (though no one seems to be sure who originally said it). Kindness is powerful. And fun to share. It brightens every moment and makes it sparkle, just like confetti. Let’s teach our children that and remind them that they have a superpower—the power to be kind to others.
One great way to do that is to bring them in for a haircut this month because we’re giving $1 to the Global Down Syndrome Foundation for every haircut Monday through Wednesday. They’ll get an awesome new hairstyle and do something kind for other kids in the process. How cool is that? KidSnips stylists are trained to handle all kinds of wriggly, shy, or anxious-about-haircuts kiddos, including those with special needs. Book your appointment today!
Note: $1 donation with any full-price haircut Monday through Wednesday will be made to the Global Down Syndrome Foundation through October 31, 2019. Not valid with any other offers.