When we get pregnant, most of us lay out goals for our little ones like...we want them to be healthy, happy, and rich. No? Just me? Anyway, we want them to be kind right? It's almost always at the top of our list of life goals for our kids. This was especially true for me when I had my daughter because kindness wasn't something that was emphasized in my house growing up. I mean, we were nice to each other, sometimes, but I can't remember a time anyone said "please be kind." There was a lot of advice on being "assertive not aggressive." "Don't be bossy." "And eat your liver and onions. It's good for you." All solid bits of advice.
But when I pictured my own daughter, and how I could shape and mold her little mind, I really wanted her to be kind. It's such a noble trait. Some of the most amazing people in my life are kind. I don't mean just nice, I mean kind. Kindness has a deeper, stronger emotion behind it. It comes from your soul. I don't think that everyone has the ability to be truly kind. I think the most kind people have a special gift that they share with us. So what can you do to find and cultivate that gift in your child?
1. Show and tell.
Start by being gracious. What a great word that is! Being gracious is directly linked to kindness. Saying please and thank you aren't just things you say to the checkout cashier at the grocery store. There has to be a purpose behind it. I try to talk to my daughter about why we say please and thank you. She's only 2 so I'm not sure how much of it is soaking in. But I know she loves to repeat after me at this stage, so I make sure I say please and thank you often in the hopes she'll get into the habit.
2. Share your stuff.
Now let me preface this by saying I'm not a big supporter of the "every kid has to share" school of thought. That's a post for another day. But I do think kids should be shown examples of sharing in the hopes they will grow up to be giving, sharing adults. And nothing is more kind than sharing what you have with someone in need, or a friend who needs to be uplifted. Doesn't that just make you feel good hearing about sharing? I thought so.
3. Be thoughtful.
I love it when someone sends me a thank you card. Or opens the door for me (hey, I'm old fashioned!). Or gives me an extra dollar off at the pumpkin patch because they knew my little girl wanted THAT PUMPKIN sooooo bad. Those are moments of kindness that are memorable and leave a lasting impression.
4. Recognize unkind people.
In order to teach our kids what to do, we should be able to point out what NOT to do. When you see examples of someone being unkind, don't be afraid to tell your child that's not the right type of behavior. Then ask them what positive steps they would take in that situation to be kinder. The few times we've faced a tough situation on the playground with a kid who wasn't being very nice, I talked to her about it. And because she's so little I offer suggestions about what to do differently next time. Again, she's 2. So only time will tell if all my labor is paying off.
Ultimately we all want to believe we can raise kind, loving children. And I think we can! But let's be honest. There will be a few who slip through the cracks. That's why in addition to kindness, we should be teaching resilience. So when they are faced with someone who is unkind, they can handle the situation thoughtfully, with grace, and kindness.
This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.