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Challenge: Raising Kind Kids

Words to Live By: Q&A with a 9-Year-Old Kindness Expert

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When it comes to kindness, I really can’t preach. I'm not a nasty person by any means. But, I often imagine myself being kinder than I am, and making time to volunteer more true acts of kindness.


There’s no point in my attempting to write a "7 Ways to Raise Kind Kids” article. Offering kid-rearing advice is just not a comfortable place for me. I'm not an expert with snazzy credentials, and my kids aren’t perfect.

My kids fight with each other. A lot. My 11-year-old son and my nine-year-old daughter can be downright evil to one another, and they can be astonishingly disrespectful to my husband and me. Lately it seems I’ve become a broken record, constantly trying to impress upon them how important it is to treat those around us with kindness and respect. And to not take unconditional love for granted.

While in my own home I bear witness to my kids’ kindness far less frequently than I would like, I am both confident and grateful they are very different people when they walk out the door.

In fact, my daughter is a kindness expert. This little lady has it all figured out. Her latest act of kindness was agreeing to answer some questions for this article. I honestly feel like I just scored an interview with the President of the United States.

Over a working dinner at Panera, we talked. And, I am privileged to have my daughter’s permission to share the following:

What does kindness mean to you?

Kindness means to help out, either around the house or if somebody's hurt. Just to be somebody who helps out a lot.

You seem like the kind of girl who is naturally kind. How did you think that happened?

I don't know. I think it's because you and Dad teach me how to be a kind person, not rude and nasty. You tell us to obey what somebody says. It's disrespectful if you don't. And the opposite of disrespectful is kind. Just watch what people who are kind are doing and learn from them.

How do Dad and I teach you to be kind?

You teach me how to be kind by showing me when someone isn't being very kind, you treat them nicely anyway. You treat them how you want to be treated and that's kindness. Because other adults haven’t been that nice to you. I've seen it. And you don't let it bother you. You just be nice to them. Unless it's Daddy and you joke around and be fake mean to him.

How do you show kindness?

One way I show kindness is when people are on the Friendship Bench at school. When people are sitting there at recess with no one to play with, I tell my friends we should include them in our game. My friends say, “Yes,” and we go invite them to play. I also show kindness in class when somebody around me drops a pencil or a pen and I pick it up for them. I also make a lot of things for people – notes, bracelets, brownies – because I like to bring them joy.

You clearly like being kind. Not just because it’s the right thing to do. Why?

It's hard to explain. It just comes naturally. I don't do it just to be nice. It's just who I am.

Do you ever not have enough time to be kind?

No offense, Mom, but this really isn't a good question. Throughout your day, you just have to be kind no matter what. I'd rather be late to something than run away from a chance to be kind.

Have you ever been unkind to someone?

Yes. When I was in second grade, I wouldn't let this one girl play with me because she was really opinionated and I didn't want her to boss me around.

Has anyone ever been unkind to you?

Yes. But I don’t want to talk about it. Mom, you know how hard I try to forget these things, don’t you? I’ve moved on.

When someone isn’t being kind to you or to someone else, what do you do?

I stand up for myself and others. Or if it's something really big, I tell a grown up. Because not being kind is the road to not having friends. I don't want people to hurt my feelings or my friends’ feelings and I would try to fix it. And I don't want people not to have friends. But, if the person being unkind won't change, sometimes you just have to ignore them.

Why do you think sometimes people aren’t kind?

I think it's because somebody has bullied them or not been kind to them and they have to take it out on someone else. If they've been bullied, they're feeling pain and they don't want to be the only ones hurting so they hurt others.

Is being kind hard or easy?

Sometimes it can be hard if you promise somebody that you'll do something and then you can't do it. But other times it's easy. You just have to do your best. Kindness is a very important goal and you just have to go for it.

What should parents do to make sure their kids become kind like you?

If they have bad feelings or thoughts about something or someone, they should really keep them inside. They need to think very carefully before they say something their kids shouldn't hear. They should make sure their kids do this, too. And, also, they should try to volunteer to help out in their kids’ classrooms so they can see their kids around their friends and others and make sure they're being good and kind citizens.

Do you have any additional thoughts about kindness that I haven't given you a chance to share?

No. We've covered everything. And I finished my lemonade.

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