The Art of Kindness
Published on Monday, February 27th, 2017
In this busy world we live in, it is becoming more and more vital to remember to take a moment to be kind to ourselves and to others. Kindness is more than just an idea or a thing that we can do, it is a way of living. When we think of things we want our children to grow up to be, kind is definitely on that list. An act of kindness is something that can bring joy and harmony not only to the receiver but to the giver as well. The Random Act of Kindness movement is sweeping the nation. Sites like https://www.randomactsofkindness.org are wonderful resources for people and communities to get ideas and spread the love and generosity.
An important way we can develop our children into kind, generous, helpful, and compassionate individuals is to notice and reinforce those amazing acts of kindness when they occur. Acknowledging and praising these actions, not only encourages more of those types of behaviors to occur, it has other benefits as well. These simple acts can help your child develop an awareness and can nurture a positive value system. We can achieve this by developing brain connections that will promote future success in schools, families, society, and life.
Some ways you can foster and encourage kindness in children are:
Under 3: Say, “Thank you for picking up your toy, that was helpful.” Describe the action and the result of the action to your child. Keeping it brief and concise is also helpful so the child can understand and not become overwhelmed or confused.
4 and older: “Lilly you helped hold your friends hand so she did not fall. That was really helpful.” Again it is better to keep the explanation brief to eliminate any confusion. The important part for an older child, is to describe how the action helped someone else.
When we say to our children “good job” or “nice work” we are cheating them out of so much rich interaction and we have missed our opportunity to develop these values and actions.
Helpful ways to build kindness with your children:
Describe your children’s actions. By describing what the child did can encourage the higher level thinking processes within the brain. These areas are critical to problem solving.
Relating how the behavior directly impacted another person. We can illustrate to our children how they can make a difference. Showing them that no matter how big or small you are, you can be a positive force for good.
Labeling the actions for your child. This is an amazing way to demonstrate what these behaviors and actions look like. You can say, “That was very kind.” or “You were very helpful.” These are statements that help a child understand how these actions feel, sound, or look.
Discuss your child’s feeling. By helping your child identify their own feelings you can help them understand and develop sympathy for others. When you discuss with your child how she felt about her broken toy, your child will then be able to sympathize with her friend when she has a broken toy.
Focus on Sympathy and empathy with your child. You can discuss these feelings with your child using books or visual images. By showing a photo of a child who is upset you can begin to have a discussion about empathy and sympathy. Empathy is feeling another’s emotions or how that person might be feeling. Sympathy is experiencing another person’s emotions and then feeling concern for that person.
Give freely of your time and resources when possible. By taking time to volunteer in your local community or donate small books, toys, or unused clothing, you can discuss and demonstrate kindness to your child. Be a good role-model and allow your child to experience kindness first- hand.
Pay it forward. Finally, it is a great idea to follow an act of kindness you have received with your own act of kindness. Keep those acts of kindness perpetuating themselves!
Focusing too much on negative behaviors or actions is a determent to our children. Historically, some have focused and noticed the negative behaviors and how it impacts others more than the positive. This is a surefire way to harm our children’s self-worth and personal value. We need to show our children they are important and valuable and that they can make a difference. This small gesture can really change the world. These acts of random kindness will develop your child’s higher level thinking and processing skills. Higher level thinking skills lead to better writers, readers, scientists, mathematicians, or musicians.
Books that teach kindness
Infant and toddler
How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends?
by Jane Yolen (Author), Mark Teague (Illustrator)
Bear Feels Sick (The Bear Books) Board book
by Karma Wilson (Author), Jane Chapman (Illustrator)
Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler
by Margery Cuyler (Author), Sachiko Yoshikawa (Illustrator)