Making kindness matter
November 13 is World Kindness Day, so it’s the perfect month to focus on making the world a kinder, gentler place by making an extra effort to teach your children kindness and compassion.
According to an article in the Washington Post, Harvard Psychologist Richard Weissbourd and his cohorts at the graduate school of education have a list of five recommendations for raising caring children:
- Make caring for others a priority. Of course your own child’s happiness is a priority, but showing children that there’s a way to balance their needs with the needs of others is an important way to demonstrate that caring for others is a priority too. Hold them to high ethical standards by making sure they honor their commitments to groups and friends, and always address others respectfully, even when they’re tired or angry. Be a role model for your children by being caring and respectful when you interact with adults—particularly those who are important in your child’s life.
- Give you child opportunities to express gratitude and practice being kind. Studies show that people who are in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, compassionate, happy and healthy, so encourage your children to think about the people and things they are grateful for every day. Make caring second nature by encouraging caregiving activities like helping around the house, having a classroom job or helping a friend with their homework. But don’t reward your child for every act of helpfulness. We should expect kids to be kind, so only reward uncommon acts of kindness that go above and beyond the expected.
- Expand your child’s circle of concern. Almost all children care about a small circle of family and friends in their lives, so help them learn to care about those outside the circle who are still deserving and needful of kindness. Encourage children to show care and respect to all the people in their daily lives like the bus driver, cafeteria workers and custodians, and to those who are on the fringe, like the new kid in class or someone who doesn’t speak their language. Talk to them about hardships faced by children in other countries in order to help them see the bigger picture and start thinking about ways to make a difference globally.
- Be a strong role model. Children learn so much just by watching and listening to their parents and other adults they respect. Practice honesty, fairness and caring. Even if sometimes you slip up and fail, your children will still see the effort. Model caring for others by doing community service, and involve your children if at all possible.
- Help children manage destructive feelings. It’s normal to feel anger, shame and other negative feelings, and those can sometimes overwhelm a child’s ability to care for others. Make sure your children know it’s okay to feel those things, and that there are ways to cope that won’t hurt or harm others. Teach your child to take a deep breath through the nose and exhale through the mouth then slowly count to five when they are upset. This will help them to express their feeling in a helpful and appropriate way instead of a destructive, harmful one.
To get the kindness ball rolling, why not strive to make a difference as a family on World Kindness Day? It’s amazing how inspired, motivated and involved kids can get when they’re challenged with finding new and different ways to be kind.
- Visit a nursing home with flowers for a resident who doesn’t have many visitors.
- Spend the morning baking, and then take a batch of homemade cookies to a neighbor.
- Call family members you don’t see or speak to often enough.
- Make special cards to send to family and friends who live far away. Check out Tinkerlab for 40 awesome cards kids can make.
- Encourage every member of the family to do something kind for another person in your house before the end of the day on November 13.
- Make an effort to practice good manners all day long, like not interrupting each other, saying please and thank you, and holding the door for those behind you.
- Go to a coffee shop with a drive-through and pay for the car behind you. Your kids will love the excitement of this secret mission!
- Go through your books and collect some gently used favorites to donate to a women’s shelter.
- If the weather permits, bundle up and head out to your local park with work gloves and garbage bags to pick up litter.
- Ask your children to think about someone they want to thank, and then encourage them to write a letter of gratitude to that person.
The world can always use more kindness, so this November start the movement at home.
For 101 great random act of kindness ideas, visit Buzzfeed.
411710D CAN/US (04/15)