Image by nvodicka
Instead of being the coolest kid in the room, how about being the kindest? Once a child understands the importance of their actions, good deeds, and the joy of helping others, kindness becomes fun and is highly contagious.
What’s wonderful about kindness is that it is a skill that can be learned. As an art teacher, I taught creativity and inspired children to understand an array of materials, techniques, and aesthetic ideas that produced endless beautiful possibilities. All they had to do was add their imaginations. Teaching kids to be kind is like developing the proficiency to create a priceless work of art.
Why Kindness Matters Most
Children have many opportunities to learn kindness from you. You are their very first teacher. Kindness is a learned response that makes the world, and their world, a brighter place. Parents who make considering other people’s feelings a priority can attest to how these actions are modeled by their children. When you make engaging in kindness a part of your daily life, children are more likely to follow suit and truly enjoy being nice.
Loving Out Loud Snapshot
A young mother shared her special family tradition that celebrated and fostered kindness at home. When her children were three and five, she started a Family Kindness Keeper book. Her goal was to fill it up with kindnesses that each family member (including parents) did and shared. Every day when the kids came home, they’d sit together at the kitchen table and talk about one thing they or someone else did that was nice. It could be as simple as holding open the door for another child or playing with a new classmate. No surprise, the book easily filled up! One of her children, when asked to bring in “something you are proud of,” even took it to her show-and-tell at school. She beamed as she talked about her family’s kind deeds.
Defining Kindness for Kids
Teaching a child to “care a whole lot” takes time. How we go about instilling that value is a lifelong lesson. Children practice what they are taught, both in principle and by the actions seen every day that require positive reinforcement.
Kindness starts at home. Probably every parent on the planet has said, “Be nice,” “Do the right thing,” “What’s the magic word?” and “Nice hands, please.” Start a kindness culture in your home. It’s easy to do, and small acts of kindness and love shared out loud at home translate into large benefits.
Be mindful of your own actions. You are your child’s best role model. Children repeat what they see and learn at home. What kind actions do you display to others daily? Are you helpful? Are you pleasant to be around? Do you look for ways to make life easier for others? Invite your children to give you a thumbs-up when you do something kind. Everyone can be in charge of kindness, if you make it a priority.
Be proud out loud. Think of ways to reinforce kindness by sharing how proud you are of the little things, words like “Kindness alert.. .wow, you are so sweet to help me clean up the table.” Or “Here comes Mr. Mighty Manners, my superkid for thinking of others! You are so loving to make a get-well-soon card for your sister.” What do you do to make it a part of your family values, family dinners, and everyday rituals? Assign your child (age two and a half to three is old enough) to be in charge of the “I love you” hugs. Our family called these “happy hugs” because we’d do a group hug, putting our daughter in the middle. When you let your kids know you’re proud of them out loud just for being themselves, it goes a long way, and the hugs multiply.
Encourage an understanding of how your child affects others. Discuss how your child’s actions affect other people, to build mindfulness of others and show empathy. If your child decides not to go to someone’s birthday party for no valid reason, point out how this makes the birthday girl feel. Everyone’s feelings matter. Or when you child is not chosen for a part in the play, teach them to recognize that it was someone else’s turn, to be happy for the other person, and to keep trying. Create an awareness of how we all affect each other and can learn to celebrate others’ accomplishments.
Giving Your Child a Kindness Job
Giving your kids a “kindness” mission inspires them to express their love and feelings out loud. When a child learns fun ways to make someone else smile, it’s contagious.
Put your child in charge of a few love songs or poems that share love. I promise, it’s a gift you give yourself.
Three-year-old Sienna learned a few “I love you” songs, which she proudly sings before she goes to bed every night. She also enjoys singing the songs for family members to brighten their day. One of the irresistible tunes she learned is a classic by Nat King Cole called “L-O-V-E.” She belts out her version, starting with “L is for the way you look at me.” Talk about a little charmer! She already knows how to spread a little L-O-V-E everywhere she goes.
When my daughter Ali was seven years old, I taught her to make a bundt cake from a store-bought mix. It was an easy recipe for a child to make, and she mastered it very quickly. Ali’s lemon cake, like the one her grandma used to make, became a popular dessert for many of our family occasions. Ali also made cakes to wish someone a “get well,” express sympathy when a loved one passed, or thank a special teacher. She was quite proud of her cakes and felt such joy baking them and giving them away to brighten someone’s day.
Loving Out Loud Snapshot
When my son Justin was fifteen years old, he was captain of the basketball team at his high school. There was a team member who had sat on the bench the entire year and was never put into a game to play, ever. On the last day of the season, in the final three minutes of the game, the coach waved to this young man: he was in. Having given up on playing, he’d come to the last game to cheer everyone on and for the first time didn’t have on his jersey. My son instantly said, “Dude, take my jersey,” as he pulled it off and gave it to him. The boy jumped up, put on Justin’s jersey, and played the final minutes until the buzzer rang. They won the game, and this boy felt like a million bucks. His mother called that night to share her thanks, as Justin’s act of kindness was monumental in their eyes and made her son feel so special.
The face of kindness is something that is easily recognized when we see it in action, but children learn by doing and having a role. The positive effect of kindness reinforces more kindness, and over time, children discover that when you are kind, people want to play with you, invite you to come over, and be your friend. Social reward is a powerful motivator, but the core value underlying kindness is how good it feels to be nice without expecting anything in return.
Three Things You Can Do Today to Raise Kind Kids
1. Role-model kindness at home. Think of how you speak to your children and family. Kids will model what they see and hear. Be the kindest role model you can be, and teach your children kindness at a very young age.
2. View kindness as being helpful. Kindness is being nice, but it’s also defined as helping others. Talk with your children about how they can give someone a hand and make a difference. Kids can be helpful in endless ways. Give a big hand for your kids’ helping hands.
3. Celebrate kindness now. When you see someone being kind, thank them. When your children are thoughtful and caring and demonstrate kind behaviors, give them a thumbs-up, a high five, or a big hug.
Excerpted from the book: Loving Out Loud.
©2019 by Robyn Spizman. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New World Library. http://www.newworldlibrary.com
Loving Out Loud: The Power of a Kind Word
by Robyn Spizman
Loving Out Loud is a little book with a big message: you have the power to make a positive impact on someone’s day, every day, and it isn’t nearly as hard as you think. Robyn Spizman has spent her career ﬁnding ways to make others happy with gifts and actions. Observing how the smallest compliment or remark of appreciation can transform an awkward moment into one of connection and joy, she set out to ﬁnd words and acts designed to let someone else know we are paying attention, we care, and we appreciate them. With LOL Snapshots and LOL daily suggestions in numerous categories, Loving Out Loud is poised to inspire a movement toward a kinder, more engaged community. (Also available as a Kindle edition.)
About the Author
Robyn Spizman is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author, speaker, and veteran media personality who has appeared often on NBC’s Today show. A prolific writer, Robyn has authored dozens of books including Make It Memorable: An A-Z Guide to Making Any Event, Gift or Occasion…Dazzling!, The Thank You Book, When Words Matter Most, and co-author with Tory Johnson of Take This Book To Work and the Women For Hire Series as well as the Author 101 book series with Rick Frishman on book writing and getting published. She also co-author Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up! with her son Justin Spizman about the 11 minute speech given by Jimmy Valvano. Visit her website at RobynSpizman.com