I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day about my blog and what life struggles she would like to read about. She did not hesitate for a second before saying, “I am having a kindness issue with my daughter.” As a mom of three young girls I definitely can relate to this. Girls can be mean at times. In fact, there are two things that always amaze me about my girls. One is how sweet they can be and the other is how mean they can be at times. I have only witnessed their meanness at home but I often worry about them being mean to others. I think most parents worry about bullying at some point, whether they fear their child will be the bully or the one being bullied. Either way, teaching kindness is hugely important for our children now and in the future.
Model the behavior you want to see in your children. I know this seems obvious, but if I’m honest with myself it’s not always automatic. We need to use kind words with them and others even when we are not feeling like it. If you treat your server at dinner with disrespect (even if they totally messed up your order) your child will think it’s ok to treat others this way. When you do nice things for others make sure your kids know about it. If you make dinner for a friend who just had a baby tell your kids what you are doing and offer to let them help. Hopefully, your kindness will be contagious.
Encourage children to only say positive things. Your kids may have heard the line from the movie Bambi, “if you can’t say something nice don’t say nothing at all”. Thumper’s grammar aside, this is so important for all of us to remember. Even if someone messes up there is always a nice way to put things.
Tell them to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. Point out how what your child says makes the other person feel. For example, when my daughter tells me how horrible my dinner is, either with words or the disgusted look on her face, I always let her know how that makes me feel. I also encourage her to think about how she would feel if she worked hard on something and someone told her she didn’t do a good job. Now if your kids are like mine and say something like, “well you don’t want me to lie do you?” I would advise them to re-watch Bambi and zip it.
Teach good manners. Again, it seems obvious but please and thank you are a very basic way of being kind.
Praise them when they are kind. Kids are actually innately kind and helpful. At first it might be for selfish reasons but as they grow it becomes rewarding to do nice things for others. Don’t go overboard when praising though. Niceness should be expected. However, when they go out of their way to be helpful we should notice it. I think we all appreciate that.
Practice these tips regularly and you and your kiddos will both be able to Discover your Best Selves.