In this busy and competitive world where it seems everyone is rushing around glued to their cell phones, kindness goes a long way. Sadly nowadays, good manners and being nice seem to have gone by the wayside if not disappeared altogether. But you can break this cycle by instilling your children with compassion and gratitude which will result in them being kinder people. Kindness draws kindness and encourages others to pay it forward which is a much more beneficial cycle to be a part of.
Being a kind person generally goes hand-in-hand with being a happy person. What more can you want for your children other than to be healthy, happy, and kind? Check out 15 clever secrets to raising kind kids and rest assured that you will be setting them on a course of living productive and happy lives.
15 Face It--You Are Now a Role Model
Have you ever stood in the background and listened to your child berate their stuffed animals? This can often serve as an “aha” moment where as a parent, you suddenly realize how much of an impact your behavior actually has on your children. It can be eerie how they mimic your exact tone of voice.
Little pitchers have big ears. Now that you’re a parent, this old adage needs to be in the back of your mind at all times. Be mindful of the way you speak and behave toward your partner, your kids, when on the phone, at the wheel of your car--basically at all times.
14 Take Steps to Be a Happier Person Yourself
If you’re normally a glass-half-empty kind of person, take pains to see things from an optimistic perspective for the benefit of your children. A person who constantly criticizes and complains is not usually a happy person, and it can be difficult for an unhappy person to be a kind one.
Are there any specific areas in your life that you're unhappy about? If so, do what you can to change your situation or else strive to reach some sort of acceptance. This is an important step for you. It will pave the way for you to live a happier life while also teaching your children an important lesson about aspiring to achieve an inner peace.
13 Lead by Example
Kindness can be contagious. Once you get the ball rolling, there is no stopping it. In turn, it will brighten others and hopefully push them to pay the kindness forward. And the whole time, your children will be there, watching and learning from your example.
It’s not enough to only model kindness and patience to your children, close family, and friends, though; make an effort to be kind to everyone you encounter, and this includes telemarketers! The true test of kindness is when you are caught in an everyday frustration--in the car, at the mall, or in a restaurant. When you find yourself in a moment of anger and irritation, whether your children are nearby or not, take a deep breath and think before reacting.
Don’t be the type of parent who preaches “Do as I say, not as I do.” Instead, be the type who models “Do as I do”--and then be kind to your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, waiters, sales clerks, fellow drivers, and strangers.
12 Teach Your Kids Basic Manners
Just because please and thank you come automatically to you (they should anyway), it doesn’t mean they will with your little ones. These knee-jerk responses need to be practiced repeatedly before they become ingrained into your children’s everyday behavior. First, you must tell them what they need to say and then you must remind them, remind them, remind them.
When it comes to basic manners, it’s usually not enough to hope your children eventually pick them up through osmosis. It will require a conversation with them. You will need to tell them what you expect and then explain why.
As situations arise with your children and their day-to-day interactions, take a moment to explain to them the importance of looking someone in the eye when talking or listening to them, teach them how to properly shake hands in greeting or how to make a proper introduction. You will be empowering your children by instilling them with confidence and independence.
You will also need to take the time to educate your children in proper table manners so they know not to chew with their mouths open or talk while eating. Encourage table manners at home so they become second nature, not just when eating at a restaurant or someone else’s house.
11 Set the Stage so Your Kids Are Happy
There’s no sense in trying to instill a cranky child with kindness. If you've ever encountered a cranky child, you'll understand. Save the pep talk for when they are in a better, more receptive mood. And if your child happens to have a moody disposition, you may need to don a detective hat in order to figure out the reasons why. Here are a few ideas to get you started in your investigation:
- Are they tired?
- Are they hungry?
- Are they suffering from possible allergies?
- Do they not feel well?
- Are they overwhelmed by their emotions?
- Do they follow a somewhat consistent routine at home?
- Are there clearly defined boundaries within your parent/child relationship?
- Do you provide effective and appropriate discipline when your child misbehaves?
- Do you spend quality time together?
10 Refrain from Over-Sheltering
The world can be a pretty awful place. And while it’s important not to scare your children, it’s equally important not to shelter them to the point that they are living in a bubble. Otherwise, kids will grow up clueless about others being in different situations than their own.
It's not only important, but also healthy for children to be exposed to some need and suffering. How else will they ever be aware of the world and feel compassion for others? And once they are aware, this will provide them with food for thought regarding their own lives which will eventually blossom into gratitude.
You know your children best. Make a point of talking about different situations that won’t be too upsetting for them. You can use what’s happening in the news to start the conversation or even talk about various situations within your immediate community.
9 Have a Discussion About Compassion
At the end of the day, reflect upon compassionate moments you and your children have witnessed together. Have a conversation about what happened and how kindness helped the situation. By pointing out kindness and its results, your children will become more aware of it in their own everyday lives. For example, did someone allow you to skip ahead of them in the grocery line because you only had a few items? Or did you notice a helpful individual run to the assistance of a person who had fallen?
Help your kids get involved in making a difference. If a family in your community has suffered a sudden and unexpected loss, figure out a way for your family to help shoulder some of their burdens. The situation suffered by the residents of Fort McMurray, Alberta is a perfect learning opportunity for your children to understand how compassion and support can produce positive results. Have a conversation about people in other parts of the world that have been impacted by natural disasters like earthquakes or tornadoes. Talk about what life must be like for people living in war-torn countries.
There is never a shortage of situations around the globe where a bit of compassion can make all the difference in the world. And simply by starting the conversation, you will be setting your children on a course to becoming people who look at other situations with compassion and gratitude.
8 Give Your Kids Time and Space to Practice Common Courtesy
When your kids are asked a direct question, allow them to answer themselves so they can practice their manners. Encourage your children to handle interactions independently. For example, allow them to stand in line and buy their own chocolate milk at the cafe. Have them order their own food when at a restaurant. Yes, it may be quicker and easier if you just do these things for them, but if you stop and look at the bigger picture, you may realize it's not necessarily beneficial for them in the long run.
By providing your children with the necessary tools to be polite and use common courtesy in their interactions, you are setting them up to be kind individuals who have respect for others.
7 Encourage Thoughtfulness in Your Children
Kindness doesn’t always have to be a reaction to a situation or to another person. Sometimes, the kindness of going above and beyond to help another person can have a lasting effect. If your friend is under the weather, have a conversation with your kids about the situation from your friend’s perspective. Ask your children what you could do to let your friend know that you are thinking of them and wishing them well. If you have elderly neighbors, think about ways you can make their lives easier such as collecting their mail or shoveling their walkways after a snowfall.
Encourage your children to write thank you notes to friends and relatives after receiving birthday or Christmas gifts. It’s much easier just to say “thanks” in person or to send out one large group email which is probably part of the reason the act of handwriting letters has dwindled. But ask anyone--there’s something special about receiving a handwritten note.
Once your kids get the hang of thinking about others and making a point of practicing everyday kindnesses, you’ll be surprised at what they come up with on their own.
6 Follow Your Kids' Lead
When your children come up with an idea on their own as to how they can be kind toward others, do what you can to help make it happen. As a parent, the hustle and bustle of your everyday life may not make this easy, but if it’s in any way possible, then do it. I can give you an example from my own life.
Last summer, while picking up a parking permit at my Town Hall with kids in tow, there was a blood drive in full swing in the building’s lobby. My then nine-year-old daughter was extremely interested in what was happening and why. I was in a hurry but humored her briefly by explaining what a blood drive was to the best of my ability.
She wanted to inquire about donating her own blood. I figured she was too young to be accepted and said as much but she insisted. So we went to the information table where she was told that only people aged 17 and older were eligible to donate blood. She was crestfallen at first. Then, she turned to me and asked if I would donate my blood on her behalf.
Here I was with three crabby kids and still a few more errands left to run before I could even consider going home, not to mention the lineup to donate blood was about a 30-minute wait. And did I mention that her request required me to have my finger pin-pricked and then a needle shoved into my arm? But I knew this meant something to her.
She would’ve done it herself had she been able. So I donated my blood all thanks to my selfless daughter. And in the end, my three children sat patiently with me throughout the entire process and learned a valuable lesson about compassion. It still makes me proud to remember this moment.
We are all busy in our day-to-day lives which is pretty much the reason that politeness and compassion for others are gradually disappearing in society. If your kids have an idea, nurture it, don’t quash it. Holding a lemonade stand or a garage sale to benefit a cause or buying gifts to donate at Christmas are ideas that are simple to execute and perfect for kids to organize on their own.
5 Have a Conversation About Gratitude
Since compassion breeds gratitude, chances are, your children will develop gratitude all on their own. However, they may not know how to verbalize the feeling and this is where you come in. By talking to them, your kids will start to develop an awareness of all the good they have in their lives and all the good they can do for others as well. When they first make this realization, it may be an overwhelming, yet wonderful sensation for them.
4 Teach Your Kids How to Respectfully Disagree
There’s no getting around it--no matter how kind a person is or how compassionate they are toward their fellow man, there will come a time in their lives where they will disagree with someone or something. When it comes to disagreements, there is a right way to argue your point and there is a definite wrong way as well.
It’s important to teach children they have a right to disagree and to voice their opinions as long as they do so respectfully. These lessons will begin as soon as they are capable of understanding the word “no” and evolve up until they are young adults.
Encourage your children to look at unfavorable situations from other perspectives, not just their own. “I know you don’t want to go to bed, but remember how crabby you were last time when you didn’t get the sleep you needed?” If possible, suggest a compromise. “Why don’t we read one more story before going to sleep?” Just make sure you stand your ground or else your children will never learn the true definition of compromise.
As a parent, try and approach a disagreement with understanding, objectivity and, of course, patience. Don’t forget, your children will be learning how to argue by following your lead.
3 Take Steps to Curb Aggressive Behavior
When arguing, focus on using kind language and not raising your voice. If things get heated, feel free to step away and take a break from the situation. Aggressive and bullying behavior are the wrong way to disagree and persuade someone to your point-of-view. Name calling, swearing, and saying mean and hurtful things are also definite no-nos.
The sooner you teach your children the ins and outs of respectful disagreement, the easier life will become for everyone involved.
2 Encourage Teamwork
What better way to teach your children to be kind than by encouraging them to work alongside others toward a common goal. Pitch in as a family and clean up an area of your neighborhood. Choose a charity close to your heart and get involved as a family. Not only will your children be practicing kindness by doing good for a higher cause, but the act of working alongside others toward a mutual achievement will be instilling them with life lessons along the way.
What a lot of people don’t realize is the invaluable lessons that learning to operate within a team environment provides for children. A group setting teaches the skills of compromise and cooperation with a common reward or achievement as the end result.
By encouraging your children to successfully work within a team setting, you will be helping them develop a number of critical life skills such as:
- Recognizing and understanding their own feelings, strengths and weaknesses
- Learning to modify their behavior in order to persevere toward a common achievement
- Understanding the feelings of others within the group and to relate positively with them toward a mutual goal
- Learning to make the right choices in order to get along and be successful
It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Make a difference to a needy family in your community over the holidays or get involved with making a Syrian family feel welcome upon their arrival. Whatever you decide, as long as kindness is the focus, it will be impossible to go wrong.
1 Don't Heap on the Praise
Everyday acts of kindness like being nice to siblings or taking care of chores around the house should be expected and not necessarily praised. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with noticing these little-expected acts and mentioning them. “Thank you for cleaning up your room” or “I appreciate your playing with your brother.”
If you witness your children being extraordinarily thoughtful and kind in unexpected ways, it may warrant a conversation where you tell them how proud you are of their actions. For example, if your child suggests having a garage sale and donating the money earned to a charity of their choosing, there is nothing wrong with discussing their thoughtful idea and the compassion it is expressing to others.
That said, constantly rewarding your children’s kind behavior may backfire and result in them becoming praise junkies. Some parenting experts suggest that as an alternative to praise, you can ask your children thought-provoking questions instead. For example, “How did it feel donating that money to charity?” or “What did you most enjoy when you were playing with your brother?” By asking questions, your children will have the opportunity to reflect upon their achievements and how it makes them feel. In turn, they will be able to internalize the positive feelings they have which will be their own reward.
Whether you remark on it or not, your children know when they have done well. If you provide them with the freedom to reinforce themselves, they won’t become dependent on praise in order to feel good about their own personal efforts and achievements. Being kind just for the sake of being kind...that will be the payoff.