Values Are Caught Not Taught: Lessons From My
Posted by Trishna Shah on Sep 21, 2017
Pay-it-Forward 4th Birthday Party...
Last month, my younger daughter Ariyana had her first pay-it-forward birthday party to celebrate turning 4 with her friends. Sareena has always had pay-it-forward birthday celebrations her whole life starting with her first birthday, so she's grown up knowing that birthdays are for giving and sharing our love with others, not focused on getting loads of presents :) With Ariyana, as her birthday falls in the summer, she hasn't had birthday parties with her friends as such, so this was a first for her. When we were planning the party, I asked her who she wanted her friends to bring gifts for and gave her a few ideas -- she said she wanted to share the gifts with the kids at a local children's hospital near our home, where she herself has been to the emergency room at night once. So we spoke with the play therapists and got a list of the types of toys that would be useful at the moment and shared them with her friends. The parents were delighted to have a chance to get their kids involved in doing something kind like this.
After her party, as she opened a whole bunch of really wonderful gifts (she has very kind and generous friends!), many of which they might have normally gotten for her, she asked why the gifts weren't for her even though when she goes to parties she takes gifts for the birthday boy/girl. I explained about how we get so much joy from sharing our love with others, especially when we see how this kindness makes them feel and when she got to give the gifts to the children's hospital she was genuinely really excited to imagine how the kids might enjoy them. Sareena also chimed in and said how we already have so much and there are other children who don't have anything, especially when they are stuck at the hospital for a long time in some cases, so it will be nice to share these gifts with them.
Sharing Smiles with Sick Children at a Hospital...
We made little labels with a small photo from Ariyana's birthday celebration and a little note, explaining that these were gifts paid forward by her friends in honour of her 4th birthday and wishing the children well and Ariyana stuck one on every gift. A couple of weeks later, we managed to get an appointment with the play therapist to deliver all the gifts and Ariyana was all smiles about being able to share them with sick children. She and Sareena asked loads of questions about the children, the hospital and what the play workers do and of course the hospital staff were so grateful for Ariyana's generosity and kindness.
Following this experience, we started consciously inviting Ariyana to do more little acts of kindness wherever we went and it only took a few more for her to get the bug and want to keep doing more and more. When we went to a theatre show the day after her birthday party, she took along some Haribo sweeties with smile cards attached and had a blast sharing them with other children in the queue as we entered the venue.
Ariyana's Favourite Act of Kindness at the Airport...
The highlight for her came when we went to the airport to go on holiday and she had two candy bars with funny emojis on the wrappers to gift to some people en route. Airports are the perfect place to tag people as they can be so stressful and miserable at times, especially for children and families. While we were checking in, she spotted an old lady who she wanted to gift the chocolate bar that said 100% gorgeous to, and the lady was confused at first and gave it back to her. Then I helped her to explain what she was trying to do and the lady's face immediately lit up with a smile and she was so thankful. Next up, while we were in the security queue, Ariyana told me she wanted to give the other chocolate bar to the mom behind us, but I told her to wait until we go through security as the queue kept moving. We suddenly overheard the family having a conversation and the parents asked the kids where their anniversary card was -- turns out, it was their wedding anniversary that day! It was too perfect a chance to pass up -- Ariyana walked up to the mom and handed her the chocolate, saying "Happy Anniversary!" and the woman was all smiles. In fact, she immediately read the smile card out loud to her boys, who were a similar age to our daughters, and then opened the chocolate bar and offered some to the girls, so sweet :)
This all built up to an entire day dedicated to acts of kindness with both of my daughters -- you can read all about our back-to-school kindness adventures in this blog post. It was beautiful to see by then, just a month on from her 4th birthday, how natural doing acts of kindness had become for Ariyana and how she wasn't at all shy about sharing her love with perfect strangers as we wandered through the streets of London :)
Values are Caught, Not Taught...
During her 4th birthday confusion around paying it forward, I was feeling like a #momfail for not introducing her to acts of kindness sooner and the joy of giving in this way. However, what followed has served as the perfect reminder to me that values are truly caught, not taught, and its up to us as parents to plant seeds for our young children to be exposed to all the things we'd love for them to catch onto :)