Kindness is key in making good human beings. When I think about how I want my children to be as adults, the one value that I always come back to is that I want them to be kind. I want them to be kind to each other, and to other people. I want them to have compassion for others. I want them to treat others as they would want to be treated. I want them to do this not because they expect something in return or want praise but rather because it’s the right thing to do.
In order to have this be a life-long understanding, it should start when they are young. This way, being kind is a part of their lives from the very beginning and is a natural way of interacting with others.
Kindness starts at home
It starts with being kind to the people you share a home with every day. But let’s be honest, siblings can have a hard time being kind to one another all of the time. Siblings know how to push buttons and get under each other’s skin. When you catch them being kind to one another, praise them!
We can also model kind behavior with each other by talking to everyone in the family in a kind and respectful manner. It can be tough to do this, especially if emotions are running high, but it’s important to practice and develop this skill. You want your children to be able to see good examples of kindness, especially in challenging or stressful circumstances.
Use teachable moments
During the day, use the activities you are doing to instill the values of kindness in children. When reading books, talk about the emotions and feelings of the characters. How did that make the other person feel? Was that a kind thing to say? How do you think this character is feeling right now?
When watching tv, take advantage of the pause button. Stop a show and ask children to guess what they think the person is feeling. Or have them guess how a character might react. Build up their ability to pick up and recognize different emotions and how one person’s behaviors have an effect on others.
Random Acts of Kindness
One thing we’ve recently started doing (and want to continue to do) is random acts of kindness. So far, we’ve done random acts for people we know - we made gifts for my daughter’s dance class and we made snacks for neighbors with the new baby. It’s been great to do acts of kindness for people we know. Now we’re ready to move on and do random acts for people we don’t know. I want to demonstrate to my children that you can be kind to strangers or people you haven’t met yet.
Make it part of the conversation
Over dinner or when you’re in the car, talk about what it means to be kind. Ask the children what they think about it. Ask them when was the last time they saw someone do something kind. Get ideas for acts of kindness they want to do for others. Ask them to think of kind things people have done for them. Tell them about times when people have done kind things for you, or you’ve done kind things for others. Just make kindness and compassion part of the conversation.
I hope this encourages and inspires you to think about ways to incorporate intentionally teaching about kindness into your everyday life!
This piece was originally posted on StrongTots as part of the Kinder by the Child project.