Capacity for Greatness in Every Child

Written by Tim Honchel
Jonathan* has been coming to KIND longer than I have. When I first met him, I could tell he was very funny, cool, and also someone I would be keeping my eye on. Sure enough, every time I looked away it seemed he was standing on chairs, throwing a ball on the roof, or teasing one of the other kids. He and a friend were consistent troublemakers and they about drove me crazy with their endless shenanigans. On a couple occasions the consequence for his actions was not being allowed to come to KIND the next day. Unsurprisingly, he somehow managed to sneak on the van with his siblings. I have to give the kid credit for determination and improving our security protocols.
Last January we made a decision to be more intentional about the culture at KIND. We wanted to nurture an environment that was kind, respectful, peaceful, and of course fun! Unfortunately, if you are not intentional about developing the desired culture, whether it’s with your business, your church, or your kids, it’s so easy for unwanted behaviors and beliefs to take root. What I was seeing from Jonathan was an example of that, and when it happens enough, people can start to believe it is normal and acceptable.

We made some changes. When the kids returned from winter break, we held a group meeting and asked them to make the rules for KIND, which we then posted in every area. The kids knew the rules and followed them, in part because they were the ones who made them. We implemented a KIND CA$H reward system to publicly recognize great behavior in the moment it happened. If some kids weren’t paying attention, we gave KIND CA$H to those who were. It was amazing how quickly the culture shifted. The kids were competing with one another to be the most kind and considerate. When new kids joined the program, they observed the culture of the other kids and adopted it for themselves.

How is Jonathan doing now, you ask? You wouldn’t think he is the same person. He still makes everyone laugh, but it’s never at someone else’s expense. He is focused and diligent with his studies. When I need help from the kids, Jonathan is the person I ask because I know I can count on him. I believe Jonathan already had many of these qualities a year ago, but like all of us, he was affected by his environment, and needed some support to develop his strengths. Now he is a leader and example for others.
* Name has been changed to protect the child's identity
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