After the year we have had with Covid-19, lockdown and the Black Life Matter movement - one universal thing we have all learnt - it's a little kindness goes a long, long way. From the rainbows in the windows for the NHS, random acts of kindness to strangers, fundraising and 'helping ones neighbours' which have all come to the forefront - and, rightly so. And, as the memes go 'Kindness is free. Sprinkle that stuff everywhere.'
The quality of being warm-hearted, considerate, humane and sympathetic - basically kindness - can in fact be taught and learnt. As with most life skills, children learn by example. So, kindness really does start at home.
We all want the best for our children. I think that's something all parents can agree on no matter who you are or what your life looks like. And, being a good person tops what we most wish for our children to be. Being a good person, being kind and thinking of others enhance positivity and help children feel good about themselves as it increases serotonin levels, it increases their energy and give them wonderful feeling of optimism. Who doesn't want that?
Kindness, empathy and caring for others (and oneself) is an important life skill which helps make the world around them a better place. Set you children on the right path with these easy to do ideas and tips:
How to Raise a Kind Child
1. Create a culture of kindness Make caring for others a priority and there is no better place to start with this than at home.Maybe make it a game within your family of doing secret things to help others, then have a meeting once a week to discuss what you have done to help a teacher, school friend, sibling, parent or neighbour. Or, you could make kindness rewards chart or a family kindness jar (just use an empty glass jar and fill with folded pieces of paper with random acts of kindness written on them, and each member picks one to act on daily/weekly)
Ideas for the jar could be anything like:
- Wash the family car and the neighbours
- Pick up litter in local area or join a beach clean
- Bake some cakes or biscuits for the police, NHS or fire station local to you
- Write your teacher/carer or nanny a letter or card of appreciation
- Donate some toys to the local play group or charity shop
- Clean you siblings bedroom
- Help your parents put the laundry away
> > Discover more home-made crafts and ideas in Make & Share Random Acts of Kindness: Simple Crafts and Recipes to Give and Spread Joy by Mique Provost
2. Talk about kindness Even before your children are old enough to act kindly, you can start talking about it. Discuss what kindness means in a way they will understand or, find a book that will help them (see our recommendations below). Demonstrate and help them find ways they can be kind with small everyday situations - like sharing their snack with a friend, waving to an elderly neighbour in the garden or, letting their siblings play with their favourite toy.
- Ideal for ages 2-4 years: A gorgeous board book that celebrates different types of kindnesses in the world >> All Kinds of Kindness by Judy Carey Nevin and illustrated by Susie Hammer, £4.99
- Ideal for ages 3-6 years: With gorgeous pictures by a host of the world's top illustrators this inspiring little picture book (with a forward and cover by illustrator Axel Scheffler) shows the the many ways children can be kind. >> Kind by Alison Green £9.99
- Ideal for ages 4-7 years: Each act, big or small, can make a difference – or at least help a friend. In this unforgettable story about how simple acts can change the world around you. >> Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, £5.68
Ideal for ages 8+ years: Follow Emily through her day with family and friends, where your child will learn how easy it can be to spread kindness - with a weekly kindness challenge. >>Kindness Starts with You by Jacquelyn Stagg
- READ MORE >> Helping children understand Kindness
3. Send a letter The lost art of snail mail is the perfect way to show kindness. Putting pen to paper show you have thought about that person and taken the time to send a letter/card. You know that feeling when you get an envelope land on the doormat that isn't a bill - imagine how that would feel for someone else? Like grandparents who may be house bound or, long-distance friends and family - especially when its out of the blue and not just on birthdays/anniversaries. A get well soon card is another way to show a simple act of kindness. Consider getting your children to send a letter or card to a child suffering from a serious illness via Postpals - a charity that ‘Posts a Smile on a Sick Child’s Face’ in the UK.
- We Love: Chasing Rainbows -Notelet Writing Set (pack of 20), £6 Dotty About Paper
4. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring behaviour, show compassion and express gratitude. Maybe you could help your child to create and frame an artwork (or, download one of these great artworks to colour) to give as a gift to a relative, friend or neighbour. Or, offer prompts for them to act on with these Kindness Cards for Kids: 52 Ways to Make Every Day a Little Better, £15 which share different ways kids can practice being kind to themselves, their families, their communities, and the earth every single day.
5. Expand your child's circle of concern It's important for you to expand your child's 'circle of concern' that means ensuring they notice other people not immediately on their radar. Say another child sat on their own in the park or in the lunch hall, and opening up a conversation of how that person may feel. It should be easy for kids to empathise with people they love and are close to, such as siblings, family members and friends. But, its up to us as parents and carers to get them to notice people outside of this inner circle including people of various races, nationalities, ages, and abilities.
A great way to get them thinking about others is to get them fundraising, volunteering and giving to others. You download a free fundraising kit from Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity or read this A-Z of easy fundraising ideas from Save the Children
6. Encourage a kind culture at home And, practice what your preach. Try to be a strong moral role model and mentor - as we all know children learn things in life by observing people as they grow up. They watch their parents/carers, teachers and other adults around them, noting everything they say and do. Encourage kindness through gratitude and being thankful for what they have. At home encourage your children say, each time she receives a present, book, new toy or clothes, to give a similar item away to a local charity shop, to a friend who might enjoy giving it a second life or even send items to The Toy Project or The Children's Book Project.
FURTHER READING >> A simple and sweet parenting book with 365 tips that draw on Tomlinson's professional experiences to provide inspiring strategies to help children and families practice kindness every day of the year. Teaching Kids to Be Kind by Rachel Tomlinson