Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Be The Nice Kid

Trisha Hannon Smith

I’ve seen the quote dozens of times posted on social media: the one painted on the wall of schools, retweeted by parents with comments of how meaningful and great it would be if their school would do the same.


“Some kids are smarter than you.

Some kids have cooler clothes than you.

Some kids are better at sports than you.

It doesn’t matter.

You have your thing, too.

Be the kid who can get along.

Be the kid who is generous.

Be the kid who is happy for other people.

Be the kid who does the right thing.

Be the nice kid.”


What I never noticed was the name attached to the quote: Bryan Skavnak.


Skavnak calls himself “the happiest golf professional in Minnesota.” He has helped thousands of golfers (and non-golfers) succeed by learning how to improve relationships.


From teaching for the past 13 years, I've run across a huge variety of kids,” writes Skavnak on his website, “There are quiet kids and loud kids, athletes and non-athletes, smart kids and happy kids and competitive kids. You name it, I've seen it. The cool thing about all these kids is that it's all okay. They are all kids who just want to be happy.”


Skavnak goes on to stress the fact that our goal as adults, as teachers and as parents is not to raise good athletes or students but to raise great people.


None of the concepts Skavnak share are all that groundbreaking; most parents strive to teach their children to use manners, do the right thing, embrace their talents and find their interests.  Why are schools across the country so vehemently embracing his message?


Perhaps it is in direct opposition to the barrage of messages telling us that personal wealth and success is more important than personal happiness and more importantly, the happiness of others.


According to the World Happiness Report (yes, that’s really a thing), U.S. happiness is at its lowest score since 2006, dipping to about 6.8 on a 10 point scale.  The rate of antidepressant use has surged 400 percent over the last decade. We continue to zone out on gadgets, get too little sleep and live unhealthy lifestyles.


The children are watching and listening to us.  They notice our choices.


Quotes on a wall are a great start. An even better start would be to lead by example.


“When you see that kid in class that doesn't seem to have any friends...go talk with him,” writes Skavnak. “When you see that kid who dropped her books...go help her pick them up. When your teacher asks a question that you know...answer it. When your friends are doing something you know is wrong...walk away. Go to school every day and see if you can make someone else in your class smile. Make someone else laugh. Make someone else feel good.”


I’m going to ask my kids every day this school year, “What did you do to make someone else happy?” And I’m going to be ready each day with my own reply.