So how kind have your kids been lately?
That is one of your goals as a parent right? Along with a good education, health, financial autonomy, faith in God, you hope your kids will be nice, at least some of the time.
That’s because most of us believe life in general just works better when everyone is treating each other kinder. It definitely makes your home a little more pleasant.
Actually being kind, like other positive character qualities, makes you not only happy, but it also makes you healthy. According to one scientist, David Hamilton, kindness changes the brain, impacts the heart and immune system, and may even be an antidote to depression. He also suggests that acts of kindness can even help a damaged heart regenerate faster. (That seemed to be Dr. Seuss’ philosophy too and the medical reason to how the Grinch’s heart grew a couple of sizes in one day.)
But sometimes it’s just hard for kids to be kind, especially when…
a sister ruins a favorite sweater.
a brother eats the last piece of cake.
a friend stabs you in the back.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, (most parents over 40 will understand that cliché), there is one big reason you should remind your kid’s to be kind … God! The idea that we are made in the image of God should be a compelling reason to teach kids they should be kind. Most of the time when a kid asks, “Why?” your answer can be, “because you are made in the image of God!” It’s definitely the answer in this case. Since God created us so we can be nice and because we are created in His image we should value the idea of showing kindness to each other. Maybe that’s why Jesus said…
“Do to others what you want them to do for you.”
That makes a great motto for any home, worthy enough to be put on a plaque, especially since Jesus said it. It’s the perfect line to drop when you’ve been dragged in to referee a disagreement or when you need to silent a vengeful tattle teller. But really, its true. When our kids learn empathy for others, it can have an impact on how they treat them.
I read a blog the other day written by Megan Jordan with a list of questions that she teaches her kids to ask to help them become more empathetic and kind to others. You should try these on your kids, too.
Ask themselves (of others):
- How would that make him feel?
- How would that make me feel?
- Look at her face: What do I think she’s thinking right now?
- Is she maybe feeling lonely or left out?
- What else might he be upset about?
When fighting ask:
- Is it necessary to fight about this?
- Is it worth being right or even just winning?
- Did I [do something that hurt their feelings] just to be cool?
- Are you okay?
- Is there anything I can do to help?
- Is there anything you need?
- Want to play?
So, help your kids learn to start thinking about the feelings of others. That means you have to be intentional about it too, because it can’t be in them if it’s not in you. The absolute best way they will learn how to be kind is when they see you being kind. So be kind to others and be kind to your kids.
Being kind and raising kind people is actually a really good goal to have as a parent, because kind people have better relationships, and they ultimately live a healthier, happier, more successful life.
You can hear more about why and how to teach your kids kindness on this month’s Parent Cue Live podcast.
Reggie is founder and CEO of Orange. He has co-written two parenting books, Playing for Keeps and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity as well as other leadership books including Lead Small and Think Orange. Reggie lives in Georgia with his wife, Debbie, and has four grown children, Reggie Paul, Hannah, Sarah and Rebekah. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.