kindness /ˈkʌɪn(d)nəs/ (noun) – the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.
It’s an admirable trait and one that we always appreciate in people. However, we often don’t spend enough time emphasizing or teaching our children about kindness. We can easily think of a scene from an advertisement or movie where a child helps an old lady cross the road, or shares their lunch with a classmate. Are these actions impulsive or ingrained, or do they stem from good parenting and an understanding of what kindness entails? Kindness is catchy. By doing good, you can create positive experiences, and perhaps smiles that keep on spreading. Children are young enough to learn new qualities and ways of living.
Let’s assume you help a lost couple with directions. Instantaneously, you feel much better about yourself knowing you saved them the time and distress that goes with being lost. Whether they appreciate it, hopefully, they at least say ”thank you”, or not, they have benefited from your good deed. Furthermore, perhaps it’ll linger in their subconscious, until they stumble across others that are lost, and decide to assist. People appreciate when others go out of their way to provide help, and if Justin Timberlake’s lyrics have an ounce of truth in them, what goes around comes around. And maybe next time you’re hopelessly lost in a foreign country, with no clue as to where that Instragrammable spot is, Karma saves you having to cry yourself a river (a bonus if they resemble JT).
Why is kindness so good at promoting happiness?
Psychology shows a correlation between feeling good and kindness. The more acts of kindness you impart, the greater sense of feel-good you receive. The relationship works both ways, with studies showing people who feel happy or have a positive well-being, are more likely to do kind acts. This is further backed by research, where being kind triggers genuine feelings of happiness in the brain. This is the same area (called the striatum) that releases the “warm glow” feeling when we eat candy or are rewarded for achievements. Furthermore, just thinking back to a recent act of kindness is enough to improve your mood, and is particularly effective with teenagers.
Being kind presents different opportunities to develop new social connections. Acts of goodness like buying something thoughtful for a friend or even just a coffee strengthens friendships. This itself is linked to mood improvements. Likewise, charity work or volunteering offers the possibility of connecting with others from different backgrounds or nationalities. Broadening your circles of connections whilst contributing positively.
As the great Albus Dumbledore stated: “Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”
Little ways to teach kindness to children
Encourage your children to participate around the house. Let them join in on activities like cooking, cleaning and gardening. If they contribute actively to daily tasks, soon it will become second nature and an act out of routine. Tasks, like packing away the groceries, drying off the dishes, feeding the dog and opening the door for grandma, may seem like chores. However, encouraging them at a young age to do these things will make them commonplace. You could inspire action through leading by example, or softly explaining why it’s important.
2. Sharing is caring
Give-and-take is a hard concept to grasp for young children. They don’t understand they will get the object back. Even saying something like “Don’t worry, it’s only for 5 minutes” comes across as abstract to a toddler. It is important to take things slow and demonstrate by doing rather than enforcing. Be a good role model and let your children see how you swap and share things between yourselves.
Encourage co-operative play and have kids play activities or games that require a group effort. A good example of achieving this quality would be to purchase a toy or gift for both children. It would be given to them to share, and if they don’t take turns or play together fairly, it will be taken away from both children.
3. Respect the Earth
If they are made aware of the world they live in, and all the wonderful things in it, they will have a more positive and conscious outlook of it. Observe the birds singing in the trees or waves crashing on the shore. Tell them about nature and how this beautiful world is ours. But also, it is ours to look after, if we want it to remain this way. Make picking up litter and cleaning up after oneself a habit. Leave no trace behind. The next time you’re at the park or on the beach, bring along a packet to collect any trash that is laying around. You can even make it a competition or game to see who collects the most.
Furthermore, encourage recycling. Not all trash needs to be thrown away. Things like bottle caps, wood or metal can be collected separately and dropped off at a recycling point.
4. Kind words are powerful
Saying something as simple as “thank you” or “I hope you get better soon” carries with it emotion and gratitude. Teach your children about what they should say in certain situations and encourage them to say them whenever possible. Then explain that what we say affect others, and while nicer, kinder words will make one feel better, others can really, really hurt. You can’t take back what you have said, so
5, Smile more
The simple act of smiling can spread with it warmth and kindness. A smile holds with it a sense of happiness or appreciation and spreads easily.
Kindness in the community
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
Kindness can be a community effort. Parents and kids can join forces to do good in their community. Be proactive with your time off and take your kids along to help out at a community event. If you struggling to find one being hosted in your neighbourhood or at the school, why not take the initiative to create one yourself.
Jacklyne, a full-time worker at a local hospital, started a community group with other parents. The aim is to teach their children and other kids collectively, about kindness. They plan regular meetups on Facebook with others in the area. She writes:
“The plan of this is to bring kids together and talk about issues going on every day and how to deal with them. I want this group to be about being equal and a whole unit. The world is getting more and more difficult to live in but why not try to do our part and make it a better place one project at a time. We try to meet with the kids once a week to do activities, games, project planning, and just hang together and teach them about kindness. My plan of projects consists of cleaning up trash on the beaches, collecting bags of old clothes and blankets for the homeless, flower planting, helping others do things that they can not do, planting and growing vegetables, and any other acts of kindness of paying it forward that the kids would like to do. I want to show them that helping others is very important and doing for others should come before doing for yourself.”
Last month Trisha had this to say about an act of kindness she was the recipient of:
“Today, a kind woman named Michaela assisted me in peak traffic. My tyre burst and this amazing person waited with me, in the blistering heat, for over an hour, until I received assistance. Thank you so much for your time, assistance and for your company. Also, thank you for caring and for taking time out of your busy day to assist an absolute stranger. You are amazing!”
As well as Savannah:
To the kind lady who stopped to check if I was okay when my car broke down on the highway today..thank You! Your bottle of water helped enough for me to drive the last bit to the garage. Women are truly the best!
There are so many good stories being shared of how kindness has had a positive impact on us. Just recently I read a story about anonymous letters being sent to soldiers in the Middle East, urging them to stop fighting and be safe.
Being kind promotes health and happiness
The benefits associated with being kind makes it worth teaching. Kindness is not limited to mental or social improvements but can improve overall health. Serotonin is realised when you engage somebody to help. This neurochemical is responsible for improvements in mood and reduced levels of depression. Kind deeds also release Oxytocin, a chemical associated with stress.
With all the negativity we see on the news and in this crazy world lets share some smiles! Kindness is becoming an essential life skill in a world surrounded by social media, work-life balance stress, shortened family time and peer pressure. Perhaps, at the most fundamental of levels, we should be preparing our kids. And that they should always, always, be kind.
We want to start doing some random acts of kindness and community service with our kids and make it a habit. Not just during the holidays, but all year round! Above we have shared some ideas and projects to do with our kids. Feel free to join in the fun, invite others and share the smiles you made!
How do you try to teach kindness to your children?