Teaching kindness to small children is no easy task. I feel like we are constantly in a re-evaluation process in our home of the best ways to instill not only a sense of being kind, but a genuine desire to love others. What I am realizing is that kindness is not a character trait that just comes naturally. We are all, by nature, selfish people. Kindness takes practice and it definitely takes modeling from parents. Her are 5 ways we are trying to make kindness hit home with our kids.
- Donating gently used and new toys. Every year around Christmas there are multitudes of programs that ask you to donate new toys for kids in need. We have been known to take advantage of this and I have the boys pick out the toy for another boy their own age. It makes things relatable for them. We also take an inventory of their rooms about 2 times per year and have them donate gently used toys to others in need.
- Character education books. Depending upon the situation, I do have a few books that I rely upon in order to get the point across especially to my youngest. I love the books Hands are Not for Hitting and Feet are Not for Kicking. It just reinforces what we are already telling him at home and gives him other ways to react.
- Act it out. Whenever the boys do something hurtful to another person (generally that other person is the other brother) I have them first calm down and the rewind. Rewind means that they have to try the interaction again in a way that is positive. While I realize that sometimes this is forced, it starts to become a habit and I have even seen them catch themselves!
- Model the behavior. I know I say this over and over again, but your children really are sponges. They soak up every single thing that we do (good or bad). When they see us reacting with compassion and kindness towards others, they will start to model that behavior. It may not be instantly, but it will happen little by little.
- Movies and TV. We are not huge movie watchers, but when we do I like to find titles that bring positive messages for my kids. Netflix allows us to have a huge selection right at our finger tips. In a world that is screaming “media and screen time is bad” I am here to say that quality and moderation are ok! So, stop feeling guilty, mom. Some of our favorites for building kindness are Care Bears, Daniel Tiger and Handy Manny.
How do you encourage a sense of genuine kindness in your children?