Teaching My Child to be Kind in a World that Isn’t Always

World Kindness Day is November 13. It saddens me to think this is even a necessary thing. Shouldn’t we all just do our best to be kind to others as much as possible? In a world where people tend to focus more on themselves than on the greater good, I want to teach my daughter to be kind.

T just turned 4. Recently, while playing with other kids in the neighborhood and at playgrounds, she has begun to experience bullies, children who don’t share well, who push, who snatch toys away. When this has occurred in front of me, she always looks at me with this confused look on her face, as if to ask, “why did that kid do that?” I encourage T to find nicer kids to play with or, when appropriate, to stand up for herself–to say things like “I didn’t like that” or “please give me back my toy.” I also try to use these as teaching moments. I tell T that she needs to remember how it felt when the other kid hit/yelled/ignored/snatched and not do those same things to others. 

Another example of a recent teaching moment occurred on the first day of school. When I picked T up from preschool, she told me, 

Donation bucket for Humane Society set up at birthday party

“S was sad today. She was crying. I laughed at her.”Initially, I was appalled that my sweet baby would laugh at another child’s tears, but I reminded myself she was 3 and instead asked why she laughed. “Because B was laughing.” Okay, so she was following along. That made a little more sense but still wasn’t ok. I told T when her friends cry, it’s because they are either hurt or sad. She should never laugh at someone who is crying because that might make them sadder. Instead, she can offer to give them a hug or pat their back and tell them, “it’s going to be ok”. 

In addition to using moments that occur organically to teach my child about kindness, I try to set a good example and create ways for her to be kind. For her recent birthday, T and I discussed that she has more toys than she plays with. Instead of asking for presents from her friends, I gave her choices of local charities to collect donations for. She chose the local Humane Society (because she wants a new cat). We included a link to the Humane Society’s wishlist on the invitation and set up a bucket for donations.

If it seems I write about this topic a lot, it’s because it’s extremely important to me. I hope my child is healthy and smart and successful, but I can’t necessarily guarantee those things. I have a lot more say in helping her become a nice, kind, caring person. (In case you want to see more examples of other posts I’ve written along these lines, check out: Sharing is Caring and Reverse Santa Sacks.)

T sometimes needs reminders to share and be kind, especially when other kids come to play at our house. (It’s hard when you’re little to understand that kids can play with your toys, but they still belong to you.) But it’s clear to me she is trying, and isn’t that really all we can ask for?

Examples of ways you can participate in World Kindness Day with your family include:

  1. Pay it forward: if you go through a drive-thru or the grocery store or out to eat, offer to pay for an item for the person behind you in line.
  2. Random acts of kindness: give a compliment to a stranger, take flowers to their teachers, write a letter or postcard and mail to a friend, leave a plate of cookies in the mailbox for your mailman.
  3. Talk about what it means to show kindness to others. Discuss times each of you have experienced kindness (or lack thereof) and how it made you feel.
  4. Make an effort not to get frustrated over little things: traffic, other people’s rudeness, small spills, etc.
  5. Smile at everyone you see. It really is contagious.

How do you teach your kids about kindness?

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Originally from Dauphin Island, AL, I am a stay-at-home mom who likes to do anything other than just stay at home. My husband and I have lived in 5 states together and are in the Atlanta area now for the second time. I have a Master’s degree from GSU in Multiple and Severe Disabilities and was a special education teacher for 8 years before deciding to work with adults with autism and then becoming a SAHM. I now work as a preschool teacher and fitness instructor. I enjoy spending time with my daughter at parks, libraries, and anywhere else that we can explore our world.