As parents, we want to raise kind kids. We want our kids to be good humans. Of course, we want them to have friends. And we want them to get along with and help others. Studies show that kindness reduces stress and increases confidence, optimism, and emotional well-being.1 But there are other substantial physical and mental health benefits to being kind for our kids and us!
According to the Mayo Clinic, it increases self-esteem, empathy, and compassion.2 Kindness also lowers blood pressure and improves mood by boosting serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. Kind kids are happier (and healthier) kids. And kind parents are happier (and healthier) parents. Let’s keep kindness in mind while parenting and raising kind kids! Here are ten ways to teach your kids kindness.
10 Ways to Raise Kind Kids
1. Model kindness.
Treat everyone you encounter with kindness – your spouse, children, relatives, and neighbors – starting with yourself. Smile. Give honest compliments. Give hugs. Hold the door open for strangers. Listen. Offer help. Remember, actions speak louder than words, and kindness is contagious!
2. Praise your kids as kind.
Dr. Thomas Lickona, the author of How to Raise Kind Kids, says to tell your kids that they are “kind” and “generous” (instead of praising their actions as kind) at every appropriate opportunity. “You are such a kind, big sister.” “You are such a generous friend.” This makes kindness and generosity a valued part of their identity rather than the product of external behavior.
3. Read books about kindness.
Read children’s books about kindness, like Horton Hears a Who!, Last Stop on Market Street, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, What Does It Mean to Be Kind?, or The World Needs More Purple People together.
4. Watch movies and TV shows about kindness.
Watch kindness-focused family movies like Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, Paddington, Tangled, The Fox and the Hound, The Peanuts Movie, or Up together. Need more movie ideas? Here’s a list of 50 movies to help you raise a kind kid (here).
Or, together, watch children’s TV shows about kindness like Arthur, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Doc McStuffins, Sesame Street, or Thomas & Friends. Need more TV ideas? Here’s a list of TV that inspires compassion (here). Discuss what you’ve watched with your kids afterward. Talk about ways the characters show kindness and how you can show kindness in your own life.
5. Create a family mission statement.
A great way to raise kind kids is to write a family mission statement with kindness as a core value. Create a reference point for your family’s words, actions, and decisions. Display your family mission statement in a prominent place in your home. Need help crafting your mission statement? Here’s a guide on how to write a family mission statement. You can also write a family poem or song!
6. Volunteer together.
Spend quality time together volunteering at your local food bank, school, library, or animal shelter. Clean up a park or plant trees near your home together. Need more volunteer ideas? Here’s a list of 36 volunteer ideas for kids of every age.
7. Donate together.
Let your child help you pick a charity with an important cause to your family. Collect coins in a “giving jar” for the charity you choose, and donate the money together when the jar is full. Or have a garage sale, and donate the proceeds from the sale to the charity. You can also collect items like canned goods for a food bank or diapers for a pregnancy resource center.
8. Give kids age-appropriate chores.
Teach your kids responsibility for chores around the house that benefit the whole family. Have them unload the dishwasher or dryer, fold laundry, wipe down bathroom counters, set and clear the table, water plants, or collect and take out the trash or recycling. Ask them to help take care of a family pet. According to Dr. Lickona, kindness is about being helpful: “It means being aware of others’ needs, noticing them, helping without being asked.”
9. Share real-world examples of kindness.
Share real-life stories of kids practicing kindness with your children. Inspire your kids to think of ways to be kind in their community. For example, tell them about these Phoenix kids who raised $3,500 to provide water in south Sudan (read here).
10. Play kindness games.
Make noticing and practicing kindness fun and exciting for your kids! Here’s a list of acts of kindness ideas for kids. There are also several free kindness resources for kids available at Kindness.org (here). You could go on a kindness scavenger hunt (here) over several days. Or play kindness Bingo (here) together. Your kids can complete a kindness experiment (here) or a summer kindness challenge (here) together. Or you could color kindness coloring sheets (here) together.
How does your family practice and teach kindness? Do you like to donate to a favorite charity or volunteer together? Do you have a family mission statement that centers on kindness? Or do you prefer to read books about kindness and watch kindness-focused movies and TV shows together?
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