Disclosure: I was invited to a complimentary screening of the movie Wonder for purposes of review. All opinions are my own. Choose Kind.
The book-turned-movie Wonder is hot right now. Huge groups of families from schools and communities are going to see it because they believe in the message of the movie: #ChooseKind.
I never read the book, but my nine year old son was listening to his teacher read it in class at the time of our screening. I thought it was a great movie, really well done. On the way home, I asked E the usual questions about how the book compares to the movie. Then we got into the theme of bullying and being kind.
I am all for this message in this movie. But I am cynical and have doubts that kids everywhere will really take the ideas provided in WONDER to heart. I had to ask THE question.
“Does someone need to be disabled or have some form of disfigurement for you to be kind to them?”
Of course, my son promptly answered no. “We should be kind to everyone.” This is what he’s been programmed to say and it was the answer that he knew was expected of him.
A few days later, I was outside with the entire fourth grade while they were doing a science project. As the classes were filing back inside, I could see my son getting into an argument with a classmate. I investigated. Apparently the horrible offense was that one boy was trying to cut in line ahead of E & his friend and was then denying it.
Nothing strikes my boy so much as perceived injustice. When he feels that something is “not fair”, he gets all kinds of righteous. I tried to signal subtly. “You are all going to the same place. Can’t we just be kind?”
Apparently, we could not because I got serious stink eye and he was still pissed off at his classmate. I reminded him later of the whole precept: “If you have the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” I affirmed that he was indeed right – that child should not have cut in front of him. But if the only outcome was that his classmate got to the classroom .001 seconds before he did, shouldn’t we just choose kind?
E was still not down with this. His nine year old heart and mind were having such a hard time coming to terms with this concept of being right but letting it go for the sake of peace and kindness.
Auggie, while slightly disfigured from birth defects and surgeries, was still a pretty great kid. He made it easy to Choose Kind. Standing up for the kid who has differences but is a great person is a noble and wonderful thing to do.
But… what about the kid who has disabilities you can’t see? What about the kids who have scars emotionally? These kids aren’t always great people. In fact, their struggles often make them hard to like. THIS is where the precept of Choose Kind is vital. THIS is what we have to work on with our kids.
I know that my fourth grader is going to have a very hard time with this. But as a parent, I have to keep reminding. He’ll get there. But it will also take me modeling that. When we are out in public, how do I deal with other adults that are getting on my nerves? How do I handle situations that are “not fair” but honestly won’t matter ten minutes later?
It’s great to teach your kids to Choose Kind towards kids with obvious disabilities or differences in appearance. But for our kids to really bring this message home, it has to go deeper than that. It has to go farther than “you can sit with us.” Have discussions about all the little irritants a typical child deals with in school. Which ones matter? Which don’t? How can they deal with those less-than-lovable kids AND Choose Kind?
Last thought – I want to teach my child to Choose Kind not so other people will think he’s a good person, but so that he can learn to see the good person in other people.