The random acts of kindness movement is an attempt to show that there is still good in the world despite the sad headlines that bombard us daily. News stories about people paying it forward in drive through lines that go on for hours or someone giving a kidney to a stranger they met in a waiting room are especially popular during the holiday season. But no matter the time of year, hearing these stories warm our hearts and inspires us to be kinder humans in our everyday interactions – at the grocery store, to our servers at restaurants and to our neighbors.
Being kind is not something we are born with. It is a learned behavior just as prejudice or insensitivity is a learned behavior. Being kind to others is something we can start to teach our children when they are young. Here are some easy things you can do to instill kindness in your children, no matter their age.
Everyday situations give us opportunities to model kindness for our kids. You can show kindness in little things like smiling and thanking the checkout person at the grocery store and asking about their day or in more intentional things like mowing the neighbor’s lawn or bringing flowers to a neighbor “just because”. Remember that these little moments of interaction can make a big difference in brightening someone’s day. Use teachable moments to discuss how you are being kind or could have been more kind and be sure to praise your child when you catch them doing something kind without being asked.
Brainstorm a list of ways your children can show kindness to others. Write each idea on a slip of paper. Once a week as a family, pull a slip and be intentional about showing kindness. There are lots of great ideas on Pinterest or the internet that can help you if you get stuck but here are some ideas.
- Write a letter or draw a picture for a friend or relative
- Take out the garbage or clean something without being asked
- Invite a friend over to play and let them choose the game/activity
- Give a compliment
- Give someone a surprise gift for no reason
- Say thank you to someone who makes a difference – police officer, firefighter, doctor, nurse, teacher, soldier, etc.
Family Fun Night
Once a month or once a year, have a family fun night dedicated to performing random acts of kindness. This one takes some planning, but it is a fun way to share the joy of being kind and getting nothing in return as a family. There are lots of ideas on the internet but let your kids be part of the brainstorming and planning. They will learn from this just as much as doing the activities – you might be surprised at their ideas.
- Anonymously pay for someone else’s meal (in the drive through or at a restaurant).
- Tape a bunch of quarters to the inside of a washing machine at the laundromat with a note (this load is on me!). This also works at parking meters if you have access to those.
- Bring sandwiches and Gatorade or coffee to a homeless person.
- Leave money in your favorite book at a bookstore with a note, “I love this book, buy it for yourself and enjoy!”
Make a Kindness Mini-Book (starring your child)
Catch your child doing something kind and make a scrapbook out of it. Check out this post for detailed instructions.
These are just a few suggestions to get you started and there are a million different ways to show kindness. Start implementing intentional acts of kindness into your family’s everyday life and see what God can do to mold your child’s heart. And who knows – you might find yourself the recipient of an act of kindness yourself along the way.
Amie Carlson is a freelance writer who has contributed to 365 Pocket Prayers for Mothers and Relevant magazine and written for Willow Creek Community Church and the Willow Creek Association. She is also the author of I Can Be Kind: My First Manners Book (Tyndale).