As a long time homeschooling mom, many will ask, “How, in this materialistic, competitive world can I raise kind children?” My answer is to begin by being a kind adult. When your child sees you going the extra mile to help a friend, carrying someone’s groceries, making a meal for someone who has an illness in the family, just moved into the neighborhood, or perhaps inviting people into your life who aren’t exactly like you, he will naturally see this as the right way to live.
We are mirrors for our kids: When children observe your examples of kindness, they’ll know where to begin, at least we hope that is the case. When I felt sick or tired, my 15 year old son offered to make dinner, or clean the house, or rub my aching neck. He recalled times when I was there for him and he has learned to be reciprocal in his actions.
Kindness is a quality that isn’t often rewarded in our schools, so we must make a strong effort to acknowledge it at home. Kids are naturally empathetic from an early age: As newborns, they cry when they hear another baby crying; they offer their favorite doll to the friend who has scraped his knee. We tend to expect our young children to grow out of this compassion and become self-absorbed. “Oh it’s the terrible twos,” we say. “Kids just can’t share at this age.” What if we shifted our expectations and saw our kids as truly caring beings? Boys in particular are often rewarded for being clever or assertive, but not often for showing compassion.
Kindness, empathy, compassion, and love grow from appreciation and respect, and in turn create more of both.
In an achievement-oriented culture, we may focus more on grades and sports victories than on values of the heart. Take the time to acknowledge kind actions as having true worth.
We can weave kindness into our everyday lives, for example, by creating a “kindness board” and posting it for all to see. Each time a family member does something kind, he or she can write it on the board when it’s acknowledged.
Try These Random Acts of Kindness
Ask your kids to come up with their own list of everyday opportunities to show kindness. Some ideas to get them started:
-Smile at your teacher, or the mailman.
-Compliment at least one person a day.
-Hold the door for the person behind you when you come in from recess.
-Pass on to someone else a book you loved.
-Offer to walk a neighbor’s dog.
-Help someone find something he or she has lost.
-Recycle magazines to the local library.
-Help a younger sibling with homework.
-Sit with the kid who usually sits alone on the bus.
-If kids are speaking unkindly about someone, even if it is about their parents, take a stand against it.
-Bake an extra batch of cookies and leave them on a neighbor’s doorstep.
-Hug somebody who needs it.
Remind your children they can make a difference each day. They can touch other people’s lives through simple efforts: a smile, a nod, a shared laugh, a kind word, a quiet prayer.