Knights in Shining Track Suits: Three Strategies to Teach the Power of Kindness
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” –Leo F. Buscaglia
When I was talking with my 5-year-old, Mr. Track Suit, yesterday about simple kindnesses, I asked him the following question:
“What word would you use to describe someone who does kind things for others?”
He said, “Well…a person.”
This at first made me giggle. What a sweet and innocent way of answering a fairly difficult question. However, as I thought about his answer it actually made so much sense. Shouldn’t PEOPLE all be kind to each other? Shouldn’t all PEOPLE help each other? Shouldn’t we always be looking for ways to be kind to others? It actually really IS that simple. A person, all people, should be kind to others.
Children naturally say and engage in simple gestures throughout the day that are unintentionally helpful and kind. In truth I think my kids have saved me a million times over.–The Knight‘s sweet and innocent comments and observations light up my world and make me laugh.-Mr. Track Suit is so unique and unapologetically true to himself and his heart in a way that helps me remember to always be who I am, regardless of what anyone thinks.-They both help me notice things I might have been too hurried to miss.-They help me to observe and key in to the people around me.-They help me remember that these moments are fleeting, I will miss these days down the road, and I need to stay focused on the present.-They make me appreciate the little things, help me feel happy, and remind me to smile.-They reach out and hug me at unexpected times, often when I need affection more than anything else.-They smile at everyone and everything.
Amidst the chaos, and despite the fact that they bring me to the edge…alot…(perhaps that is a story for another time and place), my kids help me in a million little, yet significant, ways. Doesn’t that just about sum up motherhood? What big gifts such little people bring me every day, and they do it without even realizing it!
But, the big question is: How can we teach kids kindness, increase their kindness toward others, and show them how powerful kindness can be?
We have to remember that kids are still learning. Their minds are immature and concrete in many ways. The concept of kindness is abstract. It is easy for us as parents to say, “Be nice!” “Be kind.” But, what EXACTLY is kind? What is nice? How can we be more specific so it makes sense? We can teach kindness in many ways. One way is to read stories that illustrate kindness. One way is to teach by example. But, more explicitly, I have found the following are three ways we can make the concept of kindness more concrete for them:
1) Point out and reward kindnesses when you notice them.
One way to do this is by using the kindness jars mentioned in yesterday’s post. Acknowledge and draw attention to each individual act of helpfulness and kindness. This not only points out EXACTLY what kindness is, it also REINFORCES it. We all want our kids to KEEP DOING the positive, right? Kids respond to rewards, so reward them for being kind and tell them EXACTLY what you are rewarding them for.
- “I love how you gave your brother a turn with your car. That was KIND. You filled him up and made him happy. Let’s get a pom pom for your kindness jar!”
- “Drawing that picture for your aunt was so kind! What a sweet thing to do. You’re spreading kindness, so let’s fill your jar, too.”
- “You said, “Hi!” and smiled to a boy on the playground. That was so kind! I loved watching you make someone feel included and noticed.”
2) Discuss specific examples of kindness and practice them with your children.
Just like with any other skill we are learning, the only way to get better at it is to practice. This doesn’t have to be daunting. Pick one act of kindness per day, or even per week, tell your children what you are going to do (e.g., “We are going to practice being kind. Today we are going to call and talk to Grandpa. It will make him so happy we thought of him today!”), then DO it together. Some kindnesses take no longer than a split second. Some may take time to complete. No matter how much time they take, every kindness will make a difference in someone’s life.Here are 30 examples of random acts of kindness you can practice with your children:
Follow our 31 Day Kindness Challenge here.
Click HERE for my free printable 31-days of Kindness Calendar!
3) Show them how kindness feels.
Do something kind for your child and then talk about how they feel. There is no more concrete way to demonstrate the effect of kindness than by helping them to experience it themselves. Do some of the things on the list above for your children or do something special together:
- Take them to a movie.
- Read them their favorite book AS MANY TIMES AS THEY WANT.
- Write them a letter that describes what you love about them and read it aloud.
- Ask them what their wish is for the day and then make that wish come true.
- Play a game with them.
- Make them laugh by doing a silly dance.
Then, talk to them about their feelings. How are they feeling in those moments when you do something kind for them? They may not be perfect at verbalizing it. You can help them with the words to describe their happiness. The main point is: help them recognize how they feel in the moment and what is making them feel that way. It is the kindness and attention someone else is giving them that is creating that happy feeling.
And then remind them: THEY have the power to make someone else feel EXACTLY what they are feeling by being kind, too.
Keep looking for those little helpers in your life. My kids will always be my Knights in Shining Tracksuits. All of us (and our kids) have the power to be someone else’s champion, too. Are you ready for the Random Acts of Kindness Challenge?