Encouraging Kindness in Kids
As parents of preschoolers, we're regularly reminding them to take turns, say "please" and "thank you," be good listeners, help each other, clean up their toys, don't bite … and so on.
We're pretty relentless. Because it's all related to what we consider one of our most important jobs as parents: How do we raise kind kids?
Considerate, generous people make the world better, of course. And studies show that people are happier and healthier when they're kind. Parents Magazine wrote that kids have an innate desire to help others – we just need to guide it, so that doing good becomes a lifelong habit.
Here are a few things we're trying at our house.
1) Make a Kindness Box.
Like anything, we figure kindness takes practice. We're wrapping up and decorating a box with our kids, cutting up some slips of paper, and writing an act of kindness on each one. Then we'll draw one out of the box each day this month, and do it together. Here are a few of them (big and small):
- Go on a hike in the Presidio, and pick up any trash we see.
- Donate books to the library.
- Clean up the playroom.
- Plant a garden.
- Draw a picture for Mrs. Patel (our neighbor).
- Volunteer at Glide (local nonprofit).
- Make and bring treats to the fire station.
- Hug your brother.
- Write a thank you to our teachers.
- Smile at everyone you see.
- Walk Elvis (our dog).
- Have a lemonade stand, and donate the $ to the Children's Hospital.
Stories like Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, The Please and Thank You Book, And Llama Llama Time To Share, help teach what it means to be thoughtful and kind.
We created the Wee You-Things app to help encourage acceptance – and to celebrate differences – in a fun way.
3) Family dinner.
During dinner, when you're asking your kids about school or the park – ask them how they helped spread kindness that day. Who did you help today? Who helped you? How were you a good friend? How were you a good brother? Hopefully it gives you more insight into their days – and frames it up in a way that shows what we value most.
Download a free activity page from the Wee Workshop – featuring Wee Alpha Kind Koala Kate – to capture kids' ideas on paper.
4) Notice (and recognize) it.
When we catch our kids (or they catch us) being kind, we're calling each other on it. When we remember to do it, positive reinforcement is more fun for all of us.
How do you teach your kids kindness? Please share your ideas on our Facebook page.