In 2019, November 13th is World Kindness Day and this year we are focusing on teaching kids kindness.
The purpose of World Kindness Day is to highlight good deeds in your community and across the world and to focus on the positive power of kindness. And overlapping World Kindness Day is Anti-Bullying Week, a UK initiative that this year takes place between November 11th and November 15th that focuses on tools and resources to combat bullying and how changing the culture to eliminate bullying begins with the individual.
This is a great time of year to work on cultivating kindness in your own home and spreading it in your community. Take a look at some tips and tricks that can help with teaching kids kindness.
Teach Your Kids to Pitch In
You can start teaching kids kindness in small ways right in your own home. A good way to start is by teaching your kids to pitch in on the household chores. Explain that helping with the tasks that go into running the house is expected because they live there, because they’re members of the family, and because helping when you can is just the right thing to do – at home, in the classroom, and out in the world.
Start with little things – even small children can help set the table or feed the cat. And when it comes to big chores, like cleaning up a messy kitchen after Thanksgiving or clearing the junk out of a cluttered garage, you have the chance to show your children the power of teamwork. Have everyone, kids and adults, pitch in to tackle a big chore.
Your children will be amazed at how quickly a seemingly overwhelming chore can get finished when everyone works together. Hopefully, they’ll take that energy to help out and work together with them as they head out into the world.
Teach your kids to share not just when someone asks them to share, but when they have extra of something that someone else might need or enjoy. Show them how to recognize when they have an abundance of something and look for opportunities to share that abundance.
Do you have a rosebush that’s heavy with blooms or an apple tree that’s overflowing with apples? Have your kids take some of the excess to a neighbor or friend. Have more books than your bookshelf can hold? Your kids can pick out some to donate to your local library. Pack up some of your canned food that you aren’t using and bring your kids with you to donate it to the nearest homeless assistance organization or domestic violence shelter.
Encourage your kids to keep an eye out for when they have more of anything than they need or can use – food, toys, clothes, etc. – so that they can use those opportunities to share with someone who have less.
Involve Your Kids in Helpful Acts
When a friend has a serious crisis – when they get sick, for example, or have a death in the family, what do you do? You most likely do something – maybe you’re the friend who shows up with casseroles so that the person in crisis doesn’t have to cook. Maybe you’re the friend who fundraises or the one who takes over childcare so that the person in crisis can focus on whatever else needs their attention.
Maybe you’re the one who shows up to do laundry and dishes so your sick friend can rest. Or, maybe you’re the one who sends beautiful flowers to cheer your friend up, or brings a stack of movies, books, or CDs to distract them from their troubles or keep them busy while they’re in the hospital, in bed, or in waiting rooms. These types of crises are often a group affair, with many people from the affected person’s family, community, and friend circle pitching in to help.
Where did you learn to do those things? Probably from watching your parents do the same. Involve your kids, as much as possible, when it’s time to pitch in and help someone in serious need. Younger children can arrange flowers, gather casserole ingredients, or dry dishes. Older children and teenagers can babysit (or house and pet-sit, if necessary) go shopping and run errands, and cook and clean.
This teaches your kids a few important things – that it’s important to come together in times of crisis, that even when they can’t solve a friend or loved one’s problem, they can still contribute something helpful and meaningful, and that they can be the kind of person who shows up and can be depended on in difficult times. You’re also demonstrating to your child why it’s important to have strong relationships and community connections.
Teach Your Kids to Look on the Bright Side
In a world of 24/7 news and inescapable social media updates, it can be easy to feel like the bad news just keep coming with no end in sight. That sounds like an adult concern, but that feeling that everything is going downhill can affect your kids as well – they pick up on more than you might think, and they absorb your concerns as well.
It’s important to teach your kids to look on the bright side of things – that nothing is all bad. Take your cue from Mr. Rogers (perhaps the ultimate role model for World Kindness Day) who famously told children to “look for the helpers” when they saw scary things on the news. His point was that whatever bad thing might be happening, there would always be people looking for ways to help with gratitude.
Finding the helpers in a sad or scary situation can reassure children that even though bad things happen, kindness is still alive and well. And hopefully, your children will be inspired to be helpers themselves. Nothing cheers you up when things look bleak quite like finding a way to help someone else.
Teaching kids kindness isn’t hard. Most children instinctively want to respond to others with kindness, they just sometimes need help choosing the best way to show it. And making kindness a priority in your household helps ensure that your kids keep that sense of kindness as they age.