Many of us are quick to brag over our 5-year-old easily completing 3rd grade math problems or reading above his grade-level.
I see commendations every week on Instagram over memorization drills for homeschoolers or Sunday schoolers.
We ooh and ahh over graduation pictures posted on Facebook – preschool graduation, Kindergarten graduation, elementary school graduation, 8th grade graduation…high school and college and grad school graduation mean even less by comparison.
We boast about kids with their sports awards and extracurricular endeavors.
Awards, trophies, and certificates mean less and less when everyone gets one.
Why don’t we ever proclaim how proud we are because our children are kind?
My kids are surely average and ordinary. My husband and I are average and ordinary. We’re ok with that because we think differently about success.
We seldom praise our kids for performance, but we’re sure to recognize when they’re kind.
There are lots of cute activities and lessons on teaching kids about kindness.
It’s a difficult concept to teach to children if parents don’t model it.
I’ve often been asked by parents how they can teach their kids to be kind to each other. Parents complain that their kids don’t like each other, constantly bicker and quarrel, bully each other, are mean.
I won’t allow it.
It’s quite simple.
I do not allow unkindness.
If a family has two tween girls who fight all the time, then the parents allowed it to get to that point by not parenting. We have to actively teach and model self-control and kindness.
What does it mean to be kind?
- generous, helpful, and thinking about other people’s feelings; not causing harm or damage
We’re not really born to be kind.
Babies don’t think about other people’s feelings. They’re born to cry for their needs to be met.
They have to be taught to be less self-centered as they grow.
Most parents praise toddlers for being helpful. They praise kids for being careful.
I won’t allow the excuse of “sibling rivalry is normal” in my home.
My children will learn to live together in harmony.
I want them to grow up and be friends.
How we encourage kindness:
We model generosity at home, at church, and when we travel.
Generosity is more than just giving money.
We need to be generous with our time, helpful hands, affection, words of affirmation, and more.
We are in a position where we can be very generous with our finances and time. We should desire to be a blessing to others whenever we can.
Being generous is showing the love of Jesus to others.
We don’t force sharing among our kids, but we praise it when it happens because it’s kind. We try make sure there is plenty of everything to go around, but when there are opportunities for sharing, it makes my heart happy to see my kids willingly share. Often family and friends with smaller families don’t realize having four kids means needing four of something to be more fair.
We don’t force our kids to show physical affection and we don’t show disdain when they choose not to offer it. We respect their personal space and their bodies are their own.
We provide the kids with many opportunities to help. This encourages them to think of others or needs that need to be met.
From when the kids are very, very young, I encourage them to help with household chores, cooking, yard work, and with each other.
We keep adding to their responsibilities as they grow and are able until they are independent.
The goal is for them to see a need and fill it.
I am very pleased when adults at church (or anywhere) compliment my kids on their helpfulness in cleaning up or being responsible.
Focusing on Others
I am training my children to be servant leaders after all.
It’s often hard to put others before ourselves. It’s often unpleasant and unpopular.
We review this with Bible study and using real world examples.
It’s a sign of maturity to be others-focused.
We don’t have a lot of rules in our home or charts or anything external. If the kids bicker or argue or have any kind of altercation, we usually ask right away, “Is this kind?” and it diffuses the situation. They desire to show kindness and receive kindness. Sharing bedrooms and living spaces and bathrooms forces us all to be considerate of others in our household.
Causing No Harm
It should be easy for people to understand the Golden Rule.
We offer suggestions and do-overs.
“How can you make that better?”
“Do you want to try it again, in a different way?”
“Could you say that in a kinder way?”
We teach our kids how to say a proper apology, more than just a flippant “I’m sorry.”
It’s important for kids to learn how to be repentant, make amends, and to forgive.
This is Relationships 101. Unfortunately, I know plenty of adults who missed that class and aren’t concerned about training their children in it.