Choose Kindness: How to Teach Children the Importance of Kindness
Kindness is one of the most important values that I am trying to instil in my kids. In my opinion the importance of being kind cannot be overstated – especially these days.
There are a multitude of ways for us to incorporate a little bit of extra kindness into our lives. Lately I’ve been reflecting on two of them – forging real-life connections, and being kind online.
Forge Real-Life Connections
My grandma had a knack for forming connections with people. She came out to visit us regularly, and when she did she would often go for walks around our neighbourhood. Inevitably, she would come back knowing more about our neighbours than we did. Not only was she always willing to stop and talk, she genuinely cared about other people’s stories.
The willingness to stop and engage with strangers – to go out of our comfort zone to form real-life connections – seems to be increasingly rare. We’re so busy with our own lives, and engrossed in our devices, that we forget to look up and connect with the people around us.
I know that I’m guilty of not doing this enough. I’m an introverted person by nature, so striking up conversation with strangers is not something that comes easily to me. However, when I get out of my comfort zone and do so, I’m always so glad I did.
In this stage of life, as a Mom of young kids, these connections are particularly important. Parenting can be such an isolating, thankless job. Connecting with people who get it is vital. Some days, kind words of commiseration from a stranger can make all the difference in the world.
Be Kind Online
I recently had my first piece published on Scary Mommy. This was exciting, obviously, but also terrifying. When your article is going to be read by potentially millions of people, there are likely going to be some not-so-kind comments.
I was very fortunate – the comments on my article were overwhelmingly positive. In fact, I was blown away by the outpouring of support from friends and strangers alike. However, I can tell you that in the days leading up to the publication of my piece, I was almost sick with worry. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from reading the comments, and I wasn’t sure that my skin was thick enough to handle it.
The anonymity of the internet makes it that much easier for people to act in ways that they wouldn’t otherwise. My kids are still young, but I am acutely aware of the fact that they are growing up in a very different world than I did. Cyber-bullying, as we all know, is far too prevalent. It is so easy for people to sit behind the safety of their phone or a computer screen and say things that they would never say in real life.
On the other hand, the internet can also make it easier for us to be kind to others. I’ve been on the receiving end of this kindness, most recently since starting this blog. One of the unforeseen benefits of blogging has been re-connecting with people who I had lost touch with. People have reached out with words of support, or to share their stories and the fact that they can relate to what I’m writing. I’m so grateful for each and every message I’ve received. It’s heartening to know that the internet can be a tool for spreading kindness, not just the negativity that we seem to hear so much about.
My kids still have a few years to go before they understand that there is an internet beyond YouTube Kids. However, I am hopeful that by impressing upon them the importance of kindness when they’re still young, it will become a fundamental value that stays with them through their teenage years and beyond.
How can we teach our kids the importance of kindness?
1. Talk to Them
First and foremost, teaching kids about kindness starts with talking to them. We talk about the importance of being a being a good friend. We strive to teach empathy – to recognize and understand other people’s feelings. We praise acts of kindness, particularly when they’re self-initiated.
2. Feel-Good Pom-Poms
Another tool we’ve been using is what we call “feel-good pom-poms”. This is an idea that we’ve adapted from my boys’ daycare. Each of the boys has a feel-good pom-pom jar. When I catch them doing something kind, or they’re helpful without being asked, or they simply do something that makes somebody else feel good, they can get a pom-pom and put it in their jar.
The idea is that when the jar is full, they get to choose a special reward, like a family activity or a special outing with Mom or Dad. Quite honestly though, at this point the incentive of getting a feel-good pom-pom seems to be reward enough.
3. Random Acts of Kindness for Kids
We’ve decided to focus on random acts of kindness with our kids this month, as a tangible way to focus on kindness as a family. I’ve brainstormed a list of random acts of kindness for kids, and we sat down with our children to incorporate their ideas too. They came up with some great ideas, and it was fun to see what being kind meant to each of them.
You can find my list here – 28 ideas for 28 days in February. Some of the ideas on the list are activities for my school-aged son, some are activities my three-year old will work on, and many are activities that we will do as a family.
For myself, I’m going to make a conscious effort to focus on kindness in my life as well. I want to take a page out of my grandma’s book and make an effort to reach out to people I interact with day-to-day, instead of being so caught up in my own life. I also want to spread positivity online, and return the kindness that has been extended to me since starting this blog.
We’d love for you to join us! Download our list of random acts of kindness for kids if you’d like help getting started, or brainstorm some ideas of your own. I’d love to hear about what you’re doing to choose kindness with your family.