As a child, the bullies that existed in my world were kids who tripped others on the playground, made up horribly demeaning nicknames for people, or spit in the “loser” kid’s cottage cheese at lunchtime. Today, kids in school face a different kind of bully, but one capable of just as much harm. In her new book, Kindness Wins, Galit Breen shares what she calls a “shudder-worthy” statistic: approximately four out of ten kids today, 42 percent, have experienced cyberbullying while online.
Kindness Wins is a guidebook for parents to use while teaching their children to be kind online. It’s a fun-filled guidebook ripe with beautifully heartwarming writing and relatable examples. Breen stresses the importance of parents supporting one another in this obstacle course called parenting, with examples that are stunningly well written.
“One golden fall night, the kind where the air sits in the soft slip between summer and autumn, and the red of the sky kisses the green of the grass, all but one of the girls were chasing the ball, aiming to get a goal.” Breen is describing a scene in which her daughter is too busy making wishes on dead dandelions to be concerned with the soccer game she’s supposed to be playing. In a moment of exasperation for her athletically-disinclined daughter, Breen gets reassurances from fellow parents on the sidelines – a simple don’t worry, “she’ll be fine,” can go a long way from one parent to another. As Breen so accurately writes, parents should help each other and build each other up because, “we all do parenting better when we share what we know.”
As a mother, Breen uses her experiences as a teacher to help her daughters use their social media accounts. In Kindness Wins, she stresses the importance of parents opening up constant, honest dialogue with their kids, even when it comes to talking about the hard stuff. Having these conversations often can help steer our kids towards a path of kindness, without them even having to think about it. The kind words and actions will be practiced, and come easily without being forced.
In the chapters of her book, Breen highlights ten online habits for parents to practice in teaching kindness to their kids, and gives advice on how to handle situations involving everything from posting photos and rude comments, to debates about sensitive topics. At the end of each chapter, Breen includes outside resources for further reading, conversation starters for both kids and peers, and three important takeaways. The takeaways are short reminders from the chapters, each as important as the last.
Some of my favorites: “Every action has a reaction. And every post is meant to incite reaction. What’s the purpose of yours? If it’s not kind, don’t post it;” “Scrolling when you see online bullying is the equivalent of walking away when you see it in person;” “Nothing is private online;” and last but certainly not least, “We don’t talk about other people’s bodies.” I won’t give away the farm; you’ll have to read Kindness Wins for yourself to decide which takeaways are your favorites.
Throughout her book, Breen shows how easy it is to ensure that kindness wins when tweens, teens and adults are online, because at the end of the day kindness matters. It just does.
Grab your copy of Kindness Wins here!!