The Beginning: Come Together with Kindness
Come Together with Kindness
Kindness & Anti-bullying Initiative
When we first decided to take action in 2017, Drew did the following videos.
Because peer pressure is so incredibly immense, so much so that it can sometimes cause children to go so far as to take their own lives, we wanted to start an initiative that encourages POSITIVE peer pressure! Kind is the new cool, right?!
We will do our best to help our small corner of the world come together with kindness, one friend at a time, one stranger at a time, one act of kindness at a time.
We hope to encourage kids to, “come together” and exhibit:
Courage to BE KIND! Have the courage to start a conversation and offer support when encountering negative peer pressure and negative behaviors.
Kindness Be kind and inclusive to everyone, especially those who are not kind to us.
Compassion Exhibit compassion and encouragement to everyone! Reach out not only to those who are hurt by negative behaviors, but also to those who are hurting, as evidenced by the their negative behaviors. #KnowTheirBackStory
To encourage kids to start a positive peer pressure movement by recognizing their efforts to be brave, kind and compassionate.
Why? Drew, now 12 years old, has experienced bullying since he was in Kindergarten. Yes, you read that right, Kindergarten! At the time, Mom worked for a nonprofit child advocacy agency. Mom explained to Drew why she felt some kids might, "be mean." This helped Drew gain some level of understanding to both sides of the issue. Drew has always had no problem taking a stand for others. But it's a bit more difficult sometimes to take a stand for yourself.
Drew's story is essentially every kid's story. You would be hard pressed to find someone, young or old, who has not been impacted by bullying to some degree. Because it is such a common occurrence it isn't always addressed. Additionally, the word, "bully" and "bullying" often seems to cloud the issue. It's never OK to hit someone. It's never OK to harass someone. It's never OK to verbally abuse someone. But because we call these things bullying that common sense is sometimes lost. Kindness is truly the key and we want to help.
In the first grade, Drew was punched in the face when he stood up for another boy who was being physically threatened on the playground. Notice I did not say bullied. He was being physically threatened. An angry boy threatened to push Drew's friend down a steep hill into a drainage ditch. Drew stood up for his friend, got punched in the face and the rest is history! Drew has been teased relentlessly for having wild, curly hair. We even have a book about Drew and his wild, curly hair! Still today he is mistaken for a girl by both kids and adults pretty much on the daily. Kids take it a step further and taunt him because of the way he looks. This has been happening for as long as he can remember.
Drew has encountered bullying type behaviors more and more as he has grown older. He has been teased and taunted for things as crazy as wearing yellow! Yellow! At one time he was afraid to wear several colors, carry certain lunch boxes, wear certain jackets and would not wear shorts for the longest time. When I would encourage him to be himself and wear whatever he chose, he would reluctantly agree and then mumble, “They’re going to tease me for this…” This has been a topic of constant discussion for us. As a result, Drew has gotten much better at processing his feelings and reaching out to others when they hurt him. Now, when someone tells him he is weird he says, “Thank you!” We've embraced this so much we even made a shirt for it!
Most of the time now, Drew tries to help when
someone approaches him and exhibits negative or hurtful behavior. As always, he stands up for others who are being treated poorly, too. Two things made this possible: Empathy for the child exhibiting the negative behavior and gaining self-confidence.
How? What worked for us?
Empathy: For Drew, knowing possible reasons why someone might act like this was huge. Why would someone be so mean? Why would someone choose to hurt you? I explained to Drew that we never know what someone might be going through or what hurt might be in their heart that would lead them to do these things. I was able to use examples from my work in child advocacy and child welfare to explain to him how kids are not bad, their situations are. This is how we developed our #knowtheirbackstory Campaign.
I encouraged Drew to try his best to positively respond with encouraging words to kids acting, "mean." He argued that it would never work. Sometimes it didn't. But sometimes it did. It greatly depended on the other child and how Drew responded to him/her.
For example, Drew has said to other kids, “That’s not something a leader would say.” Drew’s 2nd grade teacher wrote this in his yearbook, “You have an amazing talent of helping others solve problems in a peaceful way.” Having empathy, not only for the person on the receiving end of the negative behavior, but also for the child exhibiting the the negative behavior is key. If a stick is burning on both ends, and you only put out the fire on one end, the other end will continue to burn. Both ends of this issue must be addressed.
Drew tries to encourage the child exhibiting the negative behaviors and encourages everyone to be friends. However, keep in mind, this is reality, Drew is a child, he is a feeling human being so of course, he is not perfect. So things are not always rainbows and unicorns and the older he gets the more he is met with resistance. BUT, these are coping mechanisms he can use. He can even use these skills to help others. Consider it on-the-job-training! Unfortunately, there will always be negative people in the world. We are bound to encounter negative people in our lives. Practicing these skills now provides excellent opportunities for teachable moments and each time this happens it is a process. And guess what? I learn something each time, too. Learning to rope in emotions is extremely difficult for adults, imagine how hard it is for kids?
Self Confidence: For every step Drew would make towards gaining some self-confidence, he would take three steps back each time he was treated poorly. He could go from, "I'm pretty awesome!" to "What is wrong with me? I'm not a normal kid," in a matter of minutes. So, understanding why kids might exhibit such negative behaviors was the first step in seeing the children who were, "mean," in a different light. This allowed Drew to experience empathy. The second step was believing in himself. Understanding that absolutely no one is perfect and that we all have strengths and weaknesses made a big difference. When someone would pick on him I would always ask what strengths that child might have. Though he was reluctant to do so at first, because he was upset and angry at that child, he was almost always able to name one, and sometimes several strengths the other child had. This helped him see that there is good in everyone and reinforced the idea that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. It also took his focus off of the other child's negative behaviors and shifted his focus to the positive attributes the other child possessed. It helped him see that this "mean" child was so much like himself...he knew he'd been ugly before, he knew he'd made mistakes before but he also knows he is a good person.
This helped Drew recognize his own strengths, too. He has come to learn that his biggest contributions are kindness and generosity, which he has been recognized for several times in various ways. The biggest confidence booster, the one that set him over the top, was discovering his love of acting, modeling, theatre and art. Once he began to find his strengths, his confidence was boosted by his own, small successes. The positive energy created by doing things he loved made him feel better about himself.
Everyone has strengths and everyone has weaknesses. Find your strengths and just be you! Your strengths are your super powers! Use them for good!
Drew wants to be a positive role model and encourage other kids to be kind. He says that getting punched in the face in first grade was worth saving his friend from being pushed into a ditch. It was a pretty incredible moment when Drew realized that a child exhibiting negative behaviors is not more powerful, but instead, the child is really just hurting. Drew began to see that kindness is much more powerful and can change everything. Kindness combined with the power of POSITIVE peer pressure, the power of empathy and the power of communication are unmatched. While these are not super powers, they certainly work like they are!
We launched, “Come Together with Kindness,” in August 2017. The Initiative launched selling t-shirts to support plans to design special golden bracelets to award/recognize kids who stood up against negative peer pressure and/or went above and beyond to be kind and inclusive. As you can see, it's turned in to so much more.
Direct Positive Impact
Our idea to recognize kids who stand up against negative peer pressure and/or go above and beyond to be kind or inclusive has not changed. But we now have beautifully handcrafted Courage to Be Kind Medallions from Mimosa Handcrafted. And it is still our hope that kids/students will be recognized within their homes, schools, groups and organizations for making a positive impact. Why? Because kids need to feel supported when they take a stand against negative peer pressure. Being a silent bystander will not solicit change. But, we recognize just how hard it is to take a stand. We want to support positive youth leadership. We want to encourage peers to exhibit no tolerance for negative peer pressure and lead by example as they demonstrate kindness, empathy and open lines of communication instead. Receiving recognition and support, from both peers and adults, for taking a stand will help decrease the stigma associated with telling an adult and addressing this issue head on. Getting help is not tattling. Instead, we want to support kids who have the courage to step up and speak out against negative peer pressure. As adults we must stop saying that bullying type behaviors are acceptable because, "it’s just what kids do." Imagine a world where it wasn't just what kids do!
Indirect Positive Impact
Redirecting the child exhibiting the negative behavior is only one part of the equation. Why is the child exhibiting this behavior? What can be done to help the child? Labeling helps no one. The child is not a bully. The child is hurting and exhibiting negative behaviors due to his or her situation. The first thing kids can do to help is attempt to offer kindness, support and friendship.
Drew will come home and tell me he found out someone's backstory. He finds out their backstory simply because he takes the time to ask. So many times this alone either stops or lessens the negative behaviors. We don't just want to recognize the child who is taking a stand, we also want to recognize the child acting out needs help. This could possibly save that child's life and even possibly the lives of others. This help can come in many forms from school counselors, peers, parents or teachers. Kids need guidance and positive role models but they also need love. Often times just giving them your time, attention and an ear is enough.
Mistakes Become Lessons
Drew is not perfect. As we always tell him, no one is. He makes mistakes all the time just like the rest of us. Embracing those mistakes as teaching moments is paramount. As adults we assume that our kids know so many things that they simply do not.
We think they know something because we have told them 1,000 times. Maybe it will the 1,083rd time they are told when they finally have that ah-ha moment! It’s no secret that parenting is hard!! If we remember that mistakes become lessons that help us learn, we will find that we are presented with never ending opportunities to educate our little darlings. Dealing with bullying type behaviors and
negative people presents an opportunity for everyone involved to learn valuable life lessons. You'll even find the line,
"mistakes become lessons that help us learn," in our book Curly Q Drew and the Message Mistake!
It is our hope that this Initiative will make a positive, lasting change for kids on both sides of the issue. As adults we must remember #KidsDontHaveToBeMean #TheresNoSuchThingAsABadKid #KidsWhoNeedTheMostLoveAskForItInTheMostUnlovingWays
We realized along the way that the random acts of kindness we've been doing since 2013 could also help. How? Because kindness is the key. Caring, inclusion, empathy, sympathy, coping, helping, these are all things that seem to go hand in hand with kindness. We want kids to think kind! Our Secret Service Missions do just that! The more kind you think, the more kind you'll be!
What can you do?
JOIN US! Children, adults, schools, groups, virtually everyone who wishes to support or become part of our Initiative can get involved in several ways. First, join Kindness Corp, our free online kindness club and receive FREE Secret Service Missions each quarter. Sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of our homepage! You'll be the first to know what we're up to and join us as we find fun ways you can help us spread kindness through our outreach activities! Second, follow us on Instagram @cometogetherwithkindness for special features and stories. You can also find us on Facebook and check out our boards on Pinterest! Third, if you feel inclined, you can purchase items in our store or our Etsy shop to help support Come Together with Kindness and our mission! Come Together with Kindness is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and 100% of the proceeds go towards materials for Operation Good Deed Doer, outreach activities and the purchase of Courage to Be Kind Medallions.
Come Together with Kindness recognizes outstanding children who exemplify the core values of courage, kindness and compassion. Each child will receive an exclusive, custom Courage to be Kind Medallion designed by Madeline Ellis of Mimosa Handcrafted. Medallions were designed solely for the purpose of recognizing kids who have gone above and beyond in exhibiting courage, kindness and compassion. Medallions are not available for purchase.
For questions, inquiries or more information please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org