I thought my children would just grow up to be kind. It was never a top priority on my list of hopes and dreams for them. Being happy... yes, but being kind didn’t feature! And yet, as they grew from babies to toddlers, I began to realise (in the midst of nursery, playgroups, and playdates) that being kind to others is something so incredibly important. Something to be taught and encouraged.
It was at a birthday party when I first realised I possibly wasn’t doing all I could to raise kind children. My son, a confident 2-year-old, decided he wanted the ride-on tractor and definitely didn’t want any passengers, pushing his cousin away as he dared to approach! After scooping up my nephew, I told my son to say sorry and that he was not allowed to play on the tractor anymore until he could share. On reflection that evening, I realised I was too focused on the apology and the undesirable behaviour rather than encouraging my child to be kind. I needed to teach him to understand that sharing is kind and encourage him to do this as second nature - kindness comes from the heart.
And from that moment, I encouraged and talked about kindness often and am hopefully on the path to raising kind children.
If you want your children to grow to be kind, here are a few ideas to try with them:
begin the conversation
Talk to them about being kind every day! When you pick them up from nursery or school and ask the usual questions like "What did you do today?", "Who did you play with?" and "What did you have for lunch?", ask them what they did to be kind as well! Sometimes the answer will come quickly as they remember playing with someone who was upset, or on their own. Other times it will take some thinking about. But after lots of thought (and the serious concentrating face that goes with it) a beaming smile will appear as they announce that they told someone they liked their dress. You’ll soon find that your kind kid can tell you about a kind act every day!
collect for charities
Shoe box appeals are great for children as they pack in their outgrown toys, or simply take unwanted goods to your local charity shop. Recently my son helped a neighbour who was collecting old blankets, towels and pet food for a local shelter. He carefully folded old towels and popped in a couple of pre-loved cuddly toys for the puppies. Look in your local paper, at the library or online noticeboards – there’s always something going on!
Pop on the pinny and bake some sweet treats for friends, family or neighbours. It doesn’t have to be anything bake-off worthy, just a lovely surprise for somebody who isn’t expecting anything. If there happens to be a few biscuits spare for your little baker, perhaps they'll be more keen to be kind next time! The smallest things can help when raising nice kids.
help with the chores
If you’re like me, your children will have their weekly ‘jobs’ to do, but perhaps you can encourage them to help with someone else’s. As a bonus, mine discovered that helping with their brother’s tidying can also make more playtime for everyone.
make a new friend
One of the best ways of raising kind children is to help them make friends who will be kind right back. So, invite a friend or two to play. Perhaps there’s somebody new at school, a new family moved to your street or simply someone you’ve not had round to play before. It's great for their social skills as well as being fun and giving them the opportunity to play nice.
saying thank you
Ask your children to make a card or write a note to say thank you to someone who helps them. Perhaps a teacher, a relative, friend, or even your local police or fire station. The little things. Kindness doesn’t have to be huge gestures, it can be as simple as putting some seeds or water out in the garden for the birds. Opening a door for somebody at the shops, or even just being quiet while somebody is speaking.
Last year I discovered National Random Act of Kindness day. Of course, the best idea is not to be kind on a special day but to carry out kind acts every day. However, it’s a fantastic way to start the conversation with your children about being kind.
We can talk about being kind all day long, but we know that children learn through observation; they imitate everything we do. So, the first thing we need to do when raising nice kids is to show them how to be kind.
So, do something kind on February 17th. As Aesop said, "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."