There’s a saying that goes, “Love is kind. Anything else isn’t love at all.” It captures how we all hope we’d behave towards the people we care most about in the world – only ever with love and kindness. But even with the best will in the world, family life is never going to be all sunshine and rainbows. So, how can we teach kindness to our kids in a world where being kind often drops to the bottom of the to-do list.
Why is teaching kindness important?
These days it feels like being on your guard, judging others, acting defensively or shutting people out is just the way of the world. Whether it’s getting annoyed with slow shoppers ahead of you at the supermarket, snapping at the server in a coffee shop, posting a judgmental comment online or ignoring someone who might need some help, we can end up spending the day day putting up barriers and thinking only of ourselves.
With all the demands and stresses of modern life it’s easy to see why this happens. In lots of ways, focusing on your own needs is a natural response. Maybe we think we’re doing best by our family to turn our thoughts and actions inwards, to protect those closest to us.
But there really is magic to be found in looking outwards, making connections and closing the gap between you and others.
And kindness is the way to start.
You can try an easy experiment right now, wherever you’re reading this. Whatever your next interaction with someone is, add a dash of kindness and see what happens. Hold a door open for someone. Let someone go ahead of you on the elevator. Give someone you know a compliment. Offer to make someone a cup of tea. Give someone you love a hug – for no special reason, just because.
Teaching kindness is important because it’s the magic that holds people together. It can help begin breaking down those barriers we’re all so busy building up. When you do something nice for someone without expecting anything yourself, in fact you get something very powerful in return. The feeling of knowing you made someone feel seen, appreciated and loved. And once you start, that feeling is pretty addictive.
How to raise kids who are kind
1. Start with yourself
The first act of kindness it’s important to teach kids is being kind to yourself. And that doesn’t mean serving yourself the biggest portion of cake or putting your feet up while everyone else runs around doing the chores! It means trying to speak to yourself kindly, forgiving yourself when you’ve made a mistake, and giving yourself time to recharge. In a practical sense, this might mean trying to avoid saying things like “I’m so stupid” if you make a mistake in front of your kids. Or letting your kids know that when you take half an hour for a relaxing bath, it’s because you’re looking after your own wellbeing. Be as kind to yourself as you’d be to your best friend.
2. Show your kids what kindness looks like
How many times have you seen the parenting advice, ‘model the behaviour you want to see in your child’? Everywhere right? It’s pretty much the foundation of raising good kids. When it comes to kindness, this means letting your child see and hear you be kind in all sorts of situations: asking a neighbour how their day’s going, saying please and thank you to shop assistants, picking up a few things from the supermarket for a sick friend, joining a litter pick in the local park, running a bath for your partner after they get home from a long shift at work. Big and small moments of kindness each and every day will build up to show your kid just how powerful kindness can be.
3. Be nice to your kids
Ok, I can hear the laughter from here. And, I know this is so much easier said than done. No matter how much we love our kids they have a unique talent for winding us up and making us want to rage. We’re all going to be less kind than we’d like to be to our kids at some stage, but if we can put kindness front of our minds, it might just help us take a moment before we start shouting again. Family life is hectic and tiring, so being kinder to your kids will probably take active practice. Think about how you could phrase the everyday things to be a little kinder, maybe you could thank your kids more for being good, not just scold them for being naughty? And in the moment, when they’re driving you up the wall and you’re about to snap, take a breath to think how you can bring them closer and be more connected with them instead of widening the gap. It might be a kind word, a hug or allowing some silence instead of shouting.
4. Help your kids understand their feelings and actions
All kids act out. Even kids who are raised in households where they see and hear kindness all the time. It’s completely natural for toddlers to snatch, pre-teens to be selfish and teens to be thoughtless. They are the centre of their own universe and it’s up to us parents to help them see the bigger picture. How you help them recognise and deal with situations and their resulting emotions can make a huge difference. You can start to teach your child empathy, manners and kindness by really listening to them, talking through ideas about what would be a kinder way to act and helping them see the consequences of their actions in an age appropriate way. Let’s not pretend this stuff is easy, it can be really exhausting, but it will hopefully help your kid become someone people actually want to spend time with – you included!
5. Encourage your kids to have kind ideas
Children have a natural ability and desire to be kind and help out – when their hormones and animal instincts aren’t getting in the way, that is! When us exhausted adults are out of ideas, little ones can often think of great ways to show kindness to their family and the wider world. Prompt them to make the most of their helpful nature by giving them opportunities to practice kindness. Ask what local charitable causes they’d like to help out? See if they can think of anyone they know they’d like to do something kind for. Let them help you around the house even if it means chores take a bit longer. Ask them to help plan celebrations and treats for other family members. Everyone who gets the benefit of your kid’s kindness will absolutely love it and it will also make your child feel awesome.
Capture those memories of kindness
When your 3-year-old is screaming the house down or your teen has slammed the door for the 17th time that day, it’s easy for the lovely memories of them being kind and loving to slide totally out of your mind. That’s why it helps to have a happy place to go, to remind you of the wonderful side of family life, reassure you that you’re doing a great job of teaching them kindness and fill you with the energy you need to take on the next parenting challenge with a smile.
Photos of your kids being kind can help you create exactly that happy place. Your toddler helping the birds in the garden by putting out seed. Your eight-year-old building a sofa den for their little brother who’d been home sick from school. Your teen cooking up a storm in the kitchen to help celebrate Grandpa’s birthday.
These are the sort of moments Lifecake’s baby milestone app was made for. Having all your photos safe and sound in one secure app, sharing them with your closest loved ones, seeing everyone’s comments and scrolling back through to remember all your child’s kindest moments is such a boost on your parenting journey.
To learn more about raising responsible kids, take a look at our blog, Getting to grips with cybersecurity.