Kindness is an amazing trait, but it’s important to understand that it’s taught, not something we are born with. Teaching your kids to be kind to others has many benefits through their adult lives, like being open to empathy, seeing beyond their own circumstances, having confidence in social situations and also developing problem solving skills. It’s equally important to teach your child how to accept kindness as well as give, so that they have the opportunity to experience the feel-good emotions that come both from doing kind things, and having kind things done for them.
Why is kindness important?
In a world where people are rushing around doing lots of different things we don’t remember to stop and be nice to each other very often. It can get pretty disheartening after a while. Doing something kind, just because you can, can change someone’s day, maybe even their life. You never know when a person has had enough and is feeling like they can’t take another minute. One act of kindness can make everything they do worthwhile. Plus, doing kind things feels great, it can make your day feel purposeful or inspire you to do something new or different.
Do kind acts because you can.
Getting your kids to identify kindness starts with you explaining how kindness works and what it’s like. There is a good feeling that comes from helping people out and doing things sometimes that are surprising and nice.
Have your kids brainstorm some times when a person might appreciate an act of kindness and how they might be able to show kindness in their day.
Go on to tell them some stories about acts of kindness you have done or seen, or read about.
Make sure your story shows how beneficial kindness is to everyone around, to the person who is helped, who feels acknowledged and special, to the person who does the helping who feels warm and tingly inside, to anyone who saw the kindness happen who is inspired to do something nice for someone else.
One act of kindness can impact many, many people, sometimes in ways you will never get to know about, like ripples spreading out on a pond.
Use kindness to empower your kids. “One way to practice being a superhero is to remember your power of kindness. You can use it whenever you like to brighten a person’s day and have them feel better. When we use our kindness superpower then the person we help gets the helpful superpower too and they will want to go out and share kindness in return. If everybody helps just one person, imagine how many people will get helped through the power of passing it on. “
Do kind acts together
To really have some fun with kindness, hatch a plan for a kind deed then execute it together. Write up a blueprint, give everyone roles and go out and do the acts as a team. The most important thing…Don’t get caught or seen by anyone.
- Write a kind note and leave it in a library book.
- Put some money in a vending machine so the next person who uses it gets their item for free
- Send a dessert to a family at a restaurant
- Wash a dirty car
- Bury treasure in the playground
The point to kindness is obviously not for bragging rights or to prove how good you are, however, while you are teaching your kids about kindness it can help them to see and recognise kind behaviour in themselves and others by keeping track of good deeds. One example might be a kindness garden, where when you see or do kind things a flower grows. Have a cut out circle for the flower circle then add petals when a kind deed is done or witnessed. Write the kind deed on the petal so you have a flower of kindness when all petals are attached.
Other activities around tracking kindness can be colour-in sheets or fill in the blank sheets.
A kindness tracker works well because children can see that kind acts to others are beneficial to everyone, as well as giving you opportunities to say, “that was a very kind act, do you want to fill that in on your kindness tracker when you get home?” Being able to recognise a kind act is an important part of the equation.
Kindness is healthy
Being kind has lots of health benefits, including lowering stress levels and releasing happy natural chemicals into the bloodstream. Happy feelings come from special chemicals in the body, like
- Endorphins. This is the body’s natural pain relief. It also triggers feelings that are good and happy all through our body.
- Serotonin which helps people have better sleep, eat better and have better memory.
- Oxytocin This beats stress, lowers blood pressure and looks after your heart. Oxytocin helps us feel love and satisfaction.
When we do kind acts, and have kind acts done for us then these happy feelings start and help erase any bad feelings we have, including stress.
Lead by example
As well as congratulating your children when you notice them doing kind acts, make sure you are a positive example by acting with kindness towards strangers, school acquaintances, extended family and friends, and at home as well. Your children watch and respond to everything you do and will follow your actions much more readily than your words. This goes for receiving kindness and asking for help as well as giving it out.
Being open to receiving kindness is just as important as being able to give. We need to balance out our give and take in order to be able to achieve our goals in life. Encourage your children to say thank you graciously when someone is kind to them, and explain that the wonderful feeling they get when they help someone is a feeling other people want to experience as well, so let them have that feeling from time to time by allowing them to help us.
Where to go for inspiration
- Write a list of random acts of kindness that your child can achieve and put it somewhere they can see it often, on the fridge or on the toilet door.
- Read Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul with your child, to get them familiar with that tingling feeling of warm happiness for others.
- Have a kindness tracker and place it where you can see it at home and remember to fill it in.
Kindness is no accident, it takes training, as well as heart. Kindness in your family will go a very long way in the world.