Tips for Raising Abundantly Kind Children
(and why it matters)
Kindness does not come naturally to my kids. Oh, there have been proud mama moments when my boys went out of their way to be kind and considerate; but they certainly weren’t born that way. My sons came out kicking and screaming and generally preoccupied with their own well-being. They had to be taught to show care and concern for others, and it didn’t end there.
Knowledge doesn’t always equal kindness. My kids may know better than to be unkind, but they still push and claw each other out of the way for really important things like getting to sit in the crack between the couch cushions while my husband reads a story before bedtime. They occasionally lash out at each other over a single Lego® and regularly tease one another.
It’s easy to be unkind. Being kind takes practice. That’s why instilling kindness in my kids is a 24/7 endeavor. There’s never a moment too early or too late, never a matter too small or too overwhelming to not stop and ask how kind hearts may have changed the outcome.
Want to raise abundantly kind children? Here are five tips for nurturing kindness in your own home.
You applaud your son’s good grades and give your daughter a hearty pat on the back when she scores a goal. But, do you acknowledge kindness in your child? Praise children when they voluntarily share a special toy with a sibling or take time to comfort a hurting playmate. When you make kindness as lauded a skill set as smarts, artistry or athleticism, you child will learn to value it, too.
Read all about it
Story time is rife with opportunity for instilling kindness in kids. When you read to or with your children, make a habit of regularly pausing to discuss what’s going on in the narrative. Are the characters being kind to one another? Ask your little listeners how people or critters might have been more thoughtful. The same goes for TV shows and movies, which are essentially sermons with pictures. That animated film you just watched with your kids — what did it preach about kindness? That it does or doesn’t matter? Were any of the central figures bullied or a bully? Use your children’s responses to segue into real life. Ask if they know someone who’s picked on at practice or on the playground and how they could be a friend.
Write it down
If your family’s not in the habit of writing thank you notes, it’s time to adopt this simple gesture of appreciation. Have your children start with Christmas and birthday presents. They should specifically thank the gift giver for his or her kindness, whether or not the gift was to their liking. (Acknowledgment in writing that kindness was received not only nurtures gratitude, but helps kids recognize and name what kindness is.
Practice with pets
Have you ever watched little ones interact with the family pooch? They’re initially more apt to be tough than tender when there’s fur involved. But pets are a great teaching tool, particularly if there’s not another sibling around to practice kindness on or social settings are few. Pets also teach empathy for people who have no voice. Animals cannot speak for themselves so they can’t vocalize their hurts and frustrations, much like the kid at school who’s struggling in silence. Encourage your child to be kind to and speak up for those who can’t.
Make it anything but random
Give children ample opportunities to be kind, but make them own it. Before my boys’ ballgames, I ask them to pick out a few choice drinks and snacks to enjoy in the dugout or stands. Sharing is encouraged but not mandated. Occasionally, my benevolence runneth over and I hand them each a few coins to spend at the concessions stand. They may spend these treasures however they see fit. Some days my sons decide to open their hands and hearts to the people around them. Some days they keep a tight grip on their stuff and miss the opportunities right in front of them.
See, in our house, kindness is anything but random. We make a conscientious choice every day to be kind or unkind. We, not chance, decide to smile rather than snarl, to care rather than cut down, to give rather than get.
Written by Danie Koskan
Danie is a mom who aspires everyday to raise three abundantly kind boys.