Melissa Roy, from the US, who blogs at Beyond Mommying, wanted to teach her kids how important it is to care for others.
“In our fast-paced world where it’s so easy to get caught up in one’s own wants and needs, I have always emphasised to my children the importance of respecting other people and honouring others’ feelings,” Roy told HuffPost UK.
She asked her daughters to both write down on a plain piece of paper how they want other people to treat them, finishing the sentence: “I want other people to...”.
They then swapped papers and read their sister’s feelings out loud. Roy asked them if they understood how the other wanted to be treated, and they nodded.
Next, Roy said to her kids: “Then say ‘I don’t care!’ and crumple up your sister’s feelings.”
She wrote on Facebook: “They both looked at me incredulously, shocked that I would ask them to do something like that to their sister’s words.
“But they both slowly did as I asked, and I explained: ‘When you do mean, hateful or hurtful things to other people, it’s the same as taking their feelings and crumpling them up’.
“Crumpled paper in their hands, I asked: ‘Now, how do we fix it? What do we do after we hurt another person’s feelings?’ My seven-year-old piped up: ‘We say we’re sorry!’”
Roy reiterated that the girls were right, and to fix it they should show each other love and kindness. She asked them how they would fix each other’s papers.
The girls replied: “Smooth it out.”
So they tried to smooth the paper out until it was back to normal. But, no matter how hard they tried, the paper was still crumpled.
Roy wrote: “As they tried to fix their sister’s words and feelings they’d destroyed, they saw how hard it is. And real feelings are the same.”
The mum said she had a discussion with her girls about how important it is to care for other people’s feelings.
“I expect my children to act with kindness at all times,” she said.
“I believe that if we all took a little more time to consider the feelings of those around us and realise the impact our choices will make on others, there would be less anger and hurt driving the world.”
We asked Dr Rachel Andrew, a consultant clinical psychologist specialising in children and family, and director of Time Psychology her view on the paper hack and if she had any other advice on how to use it.
She told HuffPost UK she thought the idea was “great, very practical and helps give a focus to a complicated discussion about expectations, relationships and feelings”.
However, she said getting children to be both the writer and the “paper scrumpler” at the same time may mean they focus on their own feelings rather than how their action is impacting someone else.
Dr Andrew explained: “I would suggest doing this as an activity in two parts. Start by asking your child how they want to be treated and how they would feel if they were treated that way, then ask another child to scrumple that.
“Follow the scrunching by asking the original child: ‘And how did that make you feel?’ You can then follow it with the discussion that the mum suggests.”
Dr Andrew also added one last step to modify the hack and make it even more beneficial:
“Whilst we want to teach compassion and kindness (the point of the activity), we will all disappoint, upset and hurt others along the way,” she explained.
“None of us will be able to sustain treating others the way they want to be treated the whole of our lives.
“So a moderator (in this activity) that lets children know that harm (for the most part) is reparable is helpful.
“I meet many children who have taken far too much responsibility and blame for situations, leaving them feeling ashamed and anxious as adults.
“You could follow with a discussion about how you could smooth the paper out more, and how even if the paper stays crinkled, that isn’t always entirely because of what you’ve done.
“You could ask: ‘Have you ever been in a situation when you haven’t been able to treat someone the way they want to be?’ or ‘How did you feel when someone else got upset with you?’
“Often a rich discussion is interesting, and as a parent sometimes it’s best to not go in with a definite message because relationships are often more complicated than that.”
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