The shooting at Sparks Middle School last month shook all of us to our core. School shootings in themselves are terrifying, but having one happen so close to home really made me stop and acknowledge that this is the reality in which our children are growing up.
It seems that most people start touting gun control as soon as the news of another shooting hits, and I’m not going to even state my opinion on that socially charged topic. Instead, I’d like to suggest a way that we can combat these shootings, and the dangerous way that bullying can now turn deadly.
The day after the shooting happened, Brian Williams, the CEO of local charity Think Kindness, was scheduled to do a motivational assembly at my daughter’s school with a message of kindness. As I met Brian in the parking lot that day, I asked him tentatively, “Do you plan to discuss the shooting in your speech?”
His answer was no, and the discussion we had after that really resonated with me. Brian said that bullies are often seeking attention, and through his assemblies (where he challenges kids to do as many acts of kindness as possible, and engages them in a national contest to become The Kindest School in America), he strongly believes that he is giving bullies ways to get that attention through positive acts.
He also encourages the kids to be kind to people when they think other people will laugh at them or make fun of them. Think about it – if this is the kind of message we encourage at home, perhaps we as parents can have a strong impact in the fight against bullies.
Brian Williams is also testing an anti-bully program within schools, where the children who are known to be bullies are actually called out as leaders and asked to help teach their peers a curriculum about anti-bullying and kindness. The strategy is to make these “bullies” feel important, so that when they teach their peers, they end up wanting to be a role model against bullying.
Legislation around gun laws and mental health may slow and difficult to change, but the message of kindness is something we can all teach as a grassroots effort to prevent future senseless acts of violence. So many of the gunmen in these mass shootings were loners and claimed to have been bullied or teased. What if they had been treated with kindness, and if the kids stepped out of their social norms to include those individuals, show them a smile and treat them with respect?
We’ll never know the answer to that, but my point of view is that it sure can’t hurt to teach our children kindness. It is also a great way to honor heroes like Michael Landsberry who die in an effort to save children. For ideas on acts of kindness that children can perform, click here. You can also get ideas for acts of kindness at the Think Kindness blog.
Brian Williams and Think Kindness teach that each act of kindness can have a ripple effect. The organization has Kindness Cards that you can register online and give away when you perform a random act of kindness. Each Kindness Card recipient is encouraged to register the acts of kindness, so that you can virtually watch that act of kindness spread. I have found this to be a fun concept to introduce to my kids, and I just beam with pride when my daughter comes home from school to tell me about an act of kindness she performed that day.
For more inspiration, check out this short video of Brian during an interview the day after the Sparks Middle School shooting. If you would like Brian to come speak to your child’s school, talk to your school administrators and have them fill out a school request form.