When I had my babies, my plan was to make them use their manners. Say please and thank you. Share. Don’t eat with your mouth full. You know, the basic stuff. That led to a discipline plan. I read tons of books about time-outs, counting to three, and sticking to a plan, even when the last thing you wanted to do was give your screaming child a time-out in the Target toy aisle.
Once my babies grew older, we entered the world of school and socialization. I started experiencing other kids whose parents maybe didn’t read from the same book of etiquette that I did. Kids were not disciplined. Kids were crazy. In fact, kids were MEAN. I realized at that moment that I needed to focus on raising KIND kids, not kids who simply knew how to raise their hand, lend a pencil, or clean up their desk at the end of class.
It’s a tough job to raise a kind child. It needed to be a priority in my parenting. It was a shift in focus. It needed to be up there with good grades and sports medals. I needed my kids to win first place in “kindness.”
My husband and I were already on the same page with discipline and that definitely helped. We had rules and the kids were expected to follow them. They knew not to talk back or be “sassy.” They learned to respect themselves and others. But the key ingredient was this: using the word “kind” to describe their behavior whenever we witnessed it:
“That was kind of you to sit next to the new girl on the playground.”
“That was so kind that you held the door open for Grandma.”
“That was really kind that you remembered your friend’s birthday and made her a card.”
They learned that kindness was just as important as getting a star on their spelling test. And now that we’re living in a world filled with cyber bullies, political mayhem, and extremism, I realize kindness is the most important life lesson I can teach my children. It’s something I consciously have to work on every single day. And I have to say, my two kids (now ages 9 and 11) are getting pretty good at it. Here are some of my tips on how to raise a kind kid:
Whether your child is 3 or 13, it’s never too late to put kindness at the forefront. Start by using the word “kind” in place of “nice” to describe them or their friends. Stress the importance of being kind by starting a chore chart at home that helps out Mom and Dad. Have them write thank you notes whenever they receive a gift (one of my personal favs.) If you make kindness a part of their routine, it will start to become second nature.
Manners and discipline are the base.
It all starts at home with teaching your children good manners and discipline.Your children need to know you have high expectations of them and that they are more than capable of handling it. My kids know they have to respect the rules, respect others but, most importantly, they need to respect us, as their parents, and themselves. Once you have all this as their base, teaching them to be kind will fall into place.
You have to be kind too.
Even though it’s hard sometimes, you have to be the bigger person in front of your children. You need to show them what it’s like to be a kind, loving adult. Your children will mirror your speech and your actions. This means being respectful to wait staff, teachers, and other workers you come in contact with at home or when you are out. Even if the waiter messes up your order, you need to teach your children kindness by not overreacting and keeping your cool. You can even have a discussion with your kids about how everyone makes mistakes and we need to learn to put ourselves in other people’s shoes.
Open up their world whenever you can so they learn it’s not all about them.
For us, this involves travel and charity work. It also means reading books and watching documentaries about how other people live. They need to understand they are a part of a bigger world and being kind to others will carry them through life. Show them that everyone lives in different ways and looks different, but everyone should be treated with the same kindness and respect. Make an effort to expose your children to people who are different from them at a very young age (race, religion, special needs, etc.) so they are comfortable celebrating those differences and learning about others.
Put kindness at the forefront of every day.
We have a tradition at our dinner table where we ask the kids to tell us something they did each day that was kind or helpful. They love to share their stories and we praise them for their hard work. Kindness takes effort and the end results are worth it when you raise a kind, caring, compassionate citizen of the world. It’s not only worth it, it’s so incredibly important. Now more than ever.