A 6 step kindness routine to try before bed
I vividly remember my son (about 5 years old at the time) learning how to swim. It seemed to take him a while to finally put his head under – we had lessons, encouragement, I think I even tried bribery. Then, on a holiday it all just seemed to happen. Where we were staying had a pool. Each day he’d go out with goggles, rash vest and bathers and swim for hours. I remember thinking – was that a fluke, did we influence it somehow, or was it part of his nature that he needed time? One thing I do remember though, is that I really couldn’t try to force it.
The other image I have of my son at that same time was when he found a stick insect in the pool. I have a photo of him tenderly and carefully carrying the little insect for what seemed like days. He was so gentle, so caring, and so aware of the little creature that my eyes almost fill with tears recalling it now. It was so beautiful to see the deep love he had for this small vulnerable creature.
I’ve long been curious to understand how we develop kindness in young men and boys. Some people write about how kindness is linked to altruism. Some say that kindness is really related to self-care and self-compassion. In mindfulness, there is a practice (over 2500 years old) known as metta (loving kindness) – where one intentionally wishes for the wellness of another.
Here is a simple kindness routine you could try with your son as he goes to bed.
- Once the day is done, devices are off and he is comfortable in bed, ask him to close his eyes.
- Take him through some deep breathing (an easy way into this is to say, take 10 deep breaths – all the way in and all the way out)
- Ask him to pick someone he loves and cares about and make a picture of that person in his mind (or even the family dog!)
- Then, with this person in mind, ask him to make magic wishes ‘may you be happy’, ‘may you have peace,’ ‘may you be healthy.’ Repeat these slowly and gently.
- As he gently breathes – ask him how it feels to be kind.
- As he gently breathes – ask him to see if he can now say these things about himself (with eyes closed)
Peterson, Christopher; Selgiman, Martin E.P. (2014). Character Strengths and Virtues: A handbook and classification. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 333
Dr Ray Swann is Deputy Headmaster/Head of Crowther at Brighton Grammar School, an all-boys school in Melbourne. His professional background includes consulting, research, lecturing and coaching. This article is about Wellbeing
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