Kindness is what makes the world go around. Bold statement, right? Consider this quote from poet, Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, will forget what you did but will never forget how you made them feel.” And then think of how true that statement is in your own life. Whether it was good or bad, the moments when others make us feel something are the moments you remember most. A simple smile, small acts of compassion or kind words can make or break a stranger’s day.
Plus, research shows that by performing repeated acts of kindness consistently, you can retrain your brain to be more positive. And the more positive your mindset is, the more productive, happy and creative you become.
It makes sense, then, that as a parent you want your kids to be kind above all other qualities. You want to raise thoughtful, good, gracious, productive and kind-hearted individuals. Those qualities alone, have the power to bring happiness, joy and success to any person. And not just to your child but to those around him, too. When someone carries out a single act of kindness, three people end up benefiting from it. The person doing the act benefits, the person receiving does and anyone who witnesses it as well. From that standpoint, kind acts have the potential to spread faster than a virus. Can you think of a better virus to infect the world with than kindness? Here’s why it’s important to teach kindness to kids as a starting point to bettering the world around us.
Why Should We Teach Kids About Kindness?
At the very basic level, teaching kindness to young children is the right thing to do. But it goes deeper than that. The world in which we live is very fast-paced. Children now can have (and get) what they want, almost instantaneously. There’s no delayed gratification or sense of “I worked hard for this, and now it’s mine.” It’s tempting to want to give your children everything. But most parents would admit that giving your children everything has a limit. It’s not at the expense of being unaware of how the rest of the world lives or the right way to treat others.
Another reason why it’s important to teach kindness to children? Social and emotional skills are just as important (if not more important) to nurture as fine motor, language and math skills. Kindness can also release more serotonin in the brain, which plays an important role with learning, memory, mood, sleep, health and digestion. It provides children (and adults) with a heightened sense of well-being, increases energy and gives wonderful feelings of positivity and self-worth.
“Adolescents who identify their primary motive as helping others are three times happier than those who lack altruistic motivation. Similarly, teens who are giving are also happier and more active, involve, excited and engaged than their less engaged counterparts,” said Dr. Christine Carter, Ph.D.
Is It Even Possible to Help Kids Learn Kindness?
From an early age, kids are a sponge to the activities, behaviors and communication styles of adults. Children pay close attention to what adults say and how they act. It makes sense that helping a child develop empathy is an important part of being a responsible caretaker. Because being a good role model is a much of a teacher as anything, having compassion for others and treating their peers with kindness is a skill that doesn’t necessarily have to be taught. In bringing awareness to situations that require compassion and empathy, children can begin to view others in a different light.
Kindness Activities for Kids to Learn Compassion
There are many activities and fun ways that encourage a “kindness mindset” and can help kids with hands-on social emotional learning. These kindness activities and acts of kindness can help children interact and engage with the world around them in a compassionate and empathetic way. Don't wait until world kindness day when these activities can be done right now.
1. Fill your bucket with kindness cards
Whether this activity is done in the classroom or at home, the idea is for kids to think about how great it feels when someone is kind to them. Pass out kindness cards or sticky notes to your kids or a small group of students and have them write an example down where something nice was done for them, and how it made them feel. Collect the cards, read them out loud and reiterate how kindness is a direct correlation to feeling happy. Show your kids that if they practice kindness, the reward is another kindness card in the "bucket." “Bucket filling” is a system that encourages kids to act independently to fill each other’s invisible buckets by doing kind acts. At the end of the day ask your child, "how's your bucket today?"
2. Random acts of kindness challenge
A challenge can motivate and excite kids toward completing tasks and creating positive habits. Use either a checklist, a bulletin board or a calendar and print out a copy for your child to keep track with. Then challenge your little ones to meet a goal of doing kind things for others regularly. Your children get to check mark an item off the list or cross off a day on the calendar when they recognize something nice someone has done for them, or when they spread kindness by trying to surprise others with a random act of kindness. Hold discussions at home where everyone thinks of acts of kindness ideas they can do for others.
3. Hold mini lessons on kindness
Lessons about kindness don’t have to be long, but it is good to keep discussing it as a family and incorporate the lessons into kids activities. Make it easy to teach empathy and compassion with the monthly Cultivate Kindness Box. Centered around a new cause or charity each month, get a kindness starter kit complete with one “kindness activity” to support the featured cause, plus 1-2 special gift items and plenty of printables, like kindness party planning with free printables to help your kids cultivate kindness in others.
4. Introduce social justice issues to kids early
Reminding kids that not everyone has the same opportunities that they do is a great way to teach compassion and empathy. Now more than ever, issues of social justice should be taught in any official school curriculum or at home during important family discussions. The Peace Box is a monthly subscription box that can help lead these conversations. Designed as a 24-month curriculum to teach Black history, each box comes with a lbook, craft projects and activities for the whole family, and additional items from Black-owned small businesses.
5. Utilize the kindness jar approach
Have a jar and item that you can “fill the jar” with, like candy, pom-poms, marbles, jelly beans, etc. Ask your little one what it means to be kind and give an example of a random act of kindness. Tell your child that you’ll add items to the jar as you notice kind acts throughout the week to siblings, friends or family members. Items can also be added to the jar if your child notices someone else being kind. Use the “kindness jar” as an opportunity for discussion at dinner by asking questions such as “was someone kind to you today” or “did you help someone today?” Asking questions helps your child think about kindness and how it impacted her day in a positive way. As a family, come up with a fun celebration you can do together once the jar is full of kindness.
6. Teach kids empathy and emotional skills
One of the best ways to learn to be kind and grateful is by practicing empathy. The award-winning Superpower Academy aims to develop kids' social and emotional skillset through fun STEM activities, comics, and discussion of concepts such as empathy, compassion for themselves and others, building a growth mindset, and expressing feelings in a healthy way.