“Be kind.” You’ve seen this message on T-shirts, wall art, and twitter bios. You may have even made it your own personal mantra and your family’s mission.
And then… you walk by a playground and realize that when it comes to kids, kindness is not exactly an inborn trait. In fact, kindness has to be taught. Better yet, we have to make it a habit!
So if you’re curious about how to teach your kids the importance of kindness in a way that sticks for life, here is our list.
Truly, the best way to teach your kids to be kind is to model kindness yourself. Be kind to your spouse. Be kind to the people you meet. Be kind in the way you speak about others. And most importantly, be kind to your kids.
If you ever find that you’re snippy or less-than-kind, acknowledge it right away. It’s okay to make mistakes, and correcting them right away goes way farther than pretending they don’t exist.
If you’ve snapped at your kids, follow it with “I just realized that I wasn’t very kind because I was frustrated. I’m very sorry.” And then say thank you, if your kids say that they understand.
Modeling kindness is the greatest lesson you can teach your kids, so don’t hold back! Be extra-kind as often as you can.
Listen to Your Kids.
Is it possible that your child is just asking to be heard and it’s coming out in hurtful ways?
It could be that they’re facing a problem they don’t know how to express, that they have conflict with a friend and don’t know how to solve it, or just that they need more of your attention.
The trouble is, they may not even realize how their frustrations are manifesting or that they just need to let out some steam.
So give them the attention they crave. Give them the space to say what’s on their minds and resolve their own problems to dissolve their frustrations.
Watch Shows and Movies With Kind Characters.
Watching movies and shows with kind characters goes beyond just modeling. We make it a point to either pause or debrief afterwards to reinforce the acts of kindness we like to see. We actually engage.
For example, while watching Paw Patrol we’ll say “Wow, wasn’t it great how Marshall and Chase helped each other?” Or “It was really nice of the pups to forgive Mayor Humdinger even though he wasn’t so nice.” This helps our kids see what kindness actually looks like and that it’s valued.
It also helps to point out the contrast between characters who are kind and not-so-kind. For example, during a movie like Planes, we’d point out that since Dusty is kind and helpful, everyone was excited to see him win. And we wouldn’t want to act like Ripslinger who is rude and sneaky,
Make a Game Out of Kindness.
Little acts of kindness are actually a lot of fun. You can make it a fun game for a day – let’s do 3 kind things for someone today! Or come up with a list together and commit to one act of kindness per day.
This will help wire your brain – both yours and your child’s actually – to always think of kindness. Whether it’s helping set the table or leaving a nice card for your neighbors, small acts of kindness can really make your kids’ day.
Address Less-than-kind Actions.
The only way to know that something is hurtful is to address it head-on.
Small kids may not understand the full impact of their actions, so do it in an open, non-judgmental way that incorporates everyone’s feelings.
Start with “what happened?” To give your child a chance to express their side of the story, and then ask them to understand how it may have made the other person feel. If the situation allows, ask the other child what happened and to share how they feel too.
In our family, we ask our kids to apologize, but if it’s obvious that they’re not ready, we give them the time and space to do it on their own terms while still acknowledging the other child’s feelings.
Read Stories About Kindness.
One of the best ways for kids to learn is through story. Kids will see themselves in a story about someone who learns to be kind. The best part is that this happens without feeling like the adult is trying to change them.
It’s important to debrief and reinforce the message that kindness is important. A simple “wow, they were really kind to one-another” will help cement that you value kindness as well as what it looks like.
Stories about kindness will also help you correct less-than-kind actions without criticism. You can just draw an example from the story like “remember how Sergio acted kindly, even though he was frustrated? Let’s try that right now.”
Read our interview with EQ Explorers Author Kim Linette
Teach Kids to Be Kind – Final Thoughts
Let’s raise a generation of kind people. We hope our list gave you some ideas. Let us know how it goes!
Modeling kindness is the greatest lesson you can teach your kids, so don’t hold back! Be extra-kind as often as you can.Maryna Shkvorets of Mars and Stars baby