What parenting really comes down to in so many ways is: Are our children kind? Being kind is a movement that seems to be gathering momentum in the world of education and child-rearing, and isn't that spectacular? Kindness doesn't happen by chance, though. It's a learned characteristic. Kindness comes from having it modeled regularly and practicing it often. When children get it at home, they are more likely to show it in the classroom and do something when they see acts of bullying during school.
Here are five kindness lessons to make sure you teach kindness to help your children see it regularly and give them the consistent practice they need:
Declutter Your House & Show Your Child How To Give Away Abundance
There is so much extra stuff in our houses that we never use. Take the time to talk with your children about what they don’t use anymore and ask them to help you fill the car with useable belongings that will be loved by someone else. Bring your children to deliver these items to Goodwill or a local swap shop. Make it a point to ask your children to clear out their clutter before birthdays and Christmas when they know new items will take their place.
Assign Household Chores & Help Your Child Pick Up After Their Friends
Children who learn to help out at home "just because" will extend that assistance to those in need. Show them how to do things that are daily requirements like feeding the dog and loading the dishwasher. Reward their efforts by praising them or sharing how much easier life is for you when they help out.
Sign Up For Volunteer Jobs & Bring Your Children Along
When you learn that the PTA needs baked goods or your local food pantry needs help building up supplies and stocking shelves, sign up! Then, share with your children what you signed up for and why, and bring them along. When children see concrete examples of people helping other people, it feels so good. "I felt a warmth in my tummy after we made sure those older people had a good dinner," explains Annie, age 11. "I couldn't wait to do it again."
Don’t Criticize Their Attempts At Acts Of Kindness
Just as babies are rewarded with ooh's and ahh's when they attempt to say Mama or Dada, reward attempts at kindness. If one of your children tries to make a bed, spend time thanking them for their efforts instead of explaining how to smooth out the wrinkles more thoroughly. Kids need time to get good at kind acts, and they won't continue doing things when people make them feel poorly about the attempt.
Start Making Random Acts Of Kindness Dates With Your Child
Once you start doing this, you may wonder why you've never heard of it. Make a date with your child to spend 2-3 hours one-on-one doing random acts of kindness. Bring along a couple $5 bills and a bunch of $1's to help spread the love. First of all, your child will love the focused time you spend with each other. Second, the feeling you'll both get after giving random people $5 for food, paying for someone's coffee, or organizing the grocery carts all over a parking lot will convert you into kindness addicts.
When you spread kindness with your child, you bring humanity back to center. It's what we need in this world, but it's also what works best for sending your kids out on their own to school and out in the real world. Everyone loves the kind kid.
Want to learn more? Check out www.kindness.org to be part of the larger movement of kindness.
Kimberley Moran is the mom of two children and the step-mom to two young adults. She is a senior digital editor at WeAreTeachers.com where she helps teachers improve the lives of kids everywhere. She was a teacher for 15 years, working to make sure children were both seen and heard. She wrote the book, Hacking Parenthood: Ten Mantras You Can Use Daily to Reduce the Stress of Parenting, to help all parents simplify their lives and love raising children. She lives in Maine with her family.