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8 Ways to Boost the Kindness Quotient in Your Kids

2014-12-09 14:10

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It was an epic parenting moment for two reasons: A) because I unearthed a brilliant parenting truth on my own B) because it pretty much confirmed—that yes—I can be quite the idiot.

My son was 7. After a day of party games, cake, and celebrating with his pals, we were saying our good-byes. As I chatted with the other parents on our way out, my son tugged on my hand ignoring the very clear just-a-sec look I kept giving him. His eyes were fixed on the door and the lady handing out goody bags to guests as they left. Then it happened. Frustrated with waiting for me, my son pulled away, grabbed the goodie bag, jumped into the back seat of the car and ripped open his party favor bag like a spilled piñata.

I looked into the rearview mirror toward the back seat where he was gleefully, examining each little gumball and trinket and I snapped at him, “What were you thinking? You didn’t tell your friend happy birthday before you left or thank him or his family for inviting you. You just grabbed that bag and tore out the door without even stopping to think of anyone else. You just can’t do stuff like that.”

Our eyes were fixed in the mirror. Tearfully, he squeaked out, “You didn’t teach me that yet.”

In one fragile sentence, I heard every parenting book, along with my good intentions, crash to the floor. The kid was right. While he knew how and why to say thank you, I had never taught him the social graces of making your thank you rounds before leaving a party. Throw in a dangling bag of candy—a mere seven-year residency on planet earth—and you’ve got the perfect storm for some unintentional rudeness. Yes, an epic parenting moment: How many other things did I assume he knew?

I had not taught him. We had not practiced.

The key word in that statement is practiced. If you’re like me you might assume that kindness comes somewhat naturally. However, according to experts, kindness is a skill that must be practiced just like basketball, singing, a foreign language, or any other life-enhancing skill. We simply aren’t born kind nor can we operate in the assumption that other people—our kids included—come by kindness naturally.

Practicing kindness, according to experts, is one of the most powerful ways to combat many of the emotional risks kids face online like cyber bullying. But as simplistic as the kindness strategy sounds, it’s not really simple at all because, in the words of my then 7 year-old, not everyone “has been taught that yet.”

According to data from the Making Caring Common project, a majority of today’s youth value achievement and happiness above concern for others and they get that unction from watching the adults around them.

Yes, Christmas is the perfect time to write about kindness and giving for that matter. However, kindness isn’t a season, a mood booster, or a merit badge. Kindness is a learned behavior that becomes a skill that eventually becomes a powerful part of our character.

As my son helped me learn that day, kindness can only be learned if it’s taught. And then, a little practice would be especially helpful.

Here are a few ways to practice kindness with your kids:

  1. Decide kindness matters. This is often one of the most overlooked steps in any kind of behavior change. Yes, the change we are trying to make is a good idea and something that we should do, but that alone will not guarantee lasting change. We’ve got to believe in the change we are making and know why we are making it. Maybe you weren’t raised to think about or value kindness as a character trait. Maybe this all sounds too touchy-feely to you. Still, you’ve noticed that your child is losing friends lately and being excluded from things. Ask yourself: Do you believe that kindness matters? Do you see the benefit of adding kindness to your child’s other great traits? Make a list of the benefits of kindness and remember—it’s never too late to become a kind person.
  1. Define caring for your kids. Don’t assume your kids know what the word caring means. Define it for them simply. Like this: “Caring is noticing of the needs of others and doing what you can, personally, to be help them.”
  1. Be mindful of your mantras. Instead of saying things like “do what makes you happy,” try saying, “do what is kind.” Be mindful of the power of your words. Instead of “look out for number one,” try saying, “Slow down and consider the needs of others.” Words really do have the power to shape and mold young hearts.
  1. Look for windows. Slow down. Look both ways. Be aware of what’s taking place around you. Find the windows of opportunity to be kind. Sometimes just letting another person with fewer items go in front of you in the checkout line, taking time to welcome a new neighbor or genuinely listening while another person tells a story is all it takes to show your child that kindness can boost the quality of everyday life.shutterstock_12639388
  1. Expand your child’s sight lines. What your child chooses see—class, race, beliefs, and physical appearance—largely depends on the sightlines you’ve put in place. Open your child’s mind to respect differing opinions and cultures. It’s a big world and seeking to respect and understand others’ perspectives builds and immediate bridge.
  1. Venture outside your comfort zone. It’s easy to care for your family, a relative, or a friend. What takes effort—and genuine kindness—is reaching out beyond your well-traveled path. Whether it’s sending a thank you note to a teacher or checking in on an elderly neighbor, expressing gratitude is important in the kindness equation.
  1. Be consistent in the small stuff. Being aware of the need to show honesty and integrity in even the smallest situation leaves a lasting impact. I grew up watching my Dad return his shopping cart even if our car was at the other side of the lot and it was storming out. He also returned to several clerks to return as little as a dollar if a cashier miscalculated his change.
  1. Serve. Community service generates kindness. The more you serve, the more your appetite grows to serve. However, serving takes time and that’s when most people (parents) bail. Find some way to serve each month. It can be a simple act of service such as picking up trash around your neighborhood, or something more organized like going to a senior center to read or play cards. Our family recently spent the afternoon at a rehab center for young girls with addictions. We played board games with the women; listened to their stories, and cooked them lunch. I didn’t think much about our short visit until later that week when my daughter asked, “Mom, what kind of degree do people have to get to be a counselor at a place like the women’s center?” Serving cultivates kindness in our children . . . far more than even we can imagine.

How do you cultivate kindness in your family? Please share!

 

ToniTwitterHS 

 

 

 

Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @SafeEyes. (Disclosures).

 

The post 8 Ways to Boost the Kindness Quotient in Your Kids appeared first on McAfee.


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