A while ago, in Let Them See You: Modeling Life for Your Kids, I talked about how important it is to be a positive example to your children. I also promised to let you in on some of my ideas for doing just that.

I recently stumbled across Raising a Kind Daughter, which correlates kindness in children to that of their parents. It makes sense, especially when children watch their parents’ behavior in social situations. With this thought in mind, I decided to work on kindness as my first modeling project.

Consider the various realms of people we come across in a day, our family, our friends, and the world at large. Children respond differently to each of these groups so we will address ways to show kindness toward each of these groups – as a way of working different parts of the same muscle.

Family

These people are most accessible and thus the easiest on whom to practice giving kindness. A friend once told me that her parents did a good job creating an “us versus them” mentality with her siblings. Rather than be in competition with each other, they were a team. That thought has stuck with me as I negotiate the relationship between my kids. It works as a foundation to build kind habits. My kids are used to hearing, “Yes, you have to because this is what we do for our family.”

  • Use polite and encouraging words toward each other. Even your maniac six-year-old deserves a “please” or a “good job.”
  • Go to (and participate in) events that don’t really interest you. For my daughter, this is her brother’s soccer games. She’s allowed to bring a book but required to watch at least a few minutes and cheer for him when he plays. When we go into their classrooms or on field trips, we show this as well.
  • If extended family lives nearby, contribute to the household there by setting or clearing the table for a meal, cleaning up after yourselves, or bringing something they will enjoy.

Friends

With friends, the best way to be kind is understand their needs and wants and help fill in some of those blanks. Our kids need to see how we show kindness to our own friends and also to theirs.

  • If someone is having a hard time, take them a meal, offer to watch their kids for a while, leave them a happy message, or anything else that can help ease the stress.
  • If one of your kids’ friends has to stay after school in daycare, consider taking them home with you for a fun afternoon once in a while.
  • Pack extra in your kids’ lunches for them to share with their friends. (Check with your school first, since many have a no sharing policy due to allergies). If you can’t send extra food, consider sending stickers or another small toy.
  • Bring gifts or notes to friends just to say you were thinking about them. A random cup of coffee on a dreary morning could make your friends’ day and give your kids an example of random acts of kindness.

Strangers (aka the World)

Although we are always around strangers, it is perhaps harder to plan to show kindness. I think it’s more about an open mind-set where we leave our own grumpiness behind when dealing with others.

  • Show basic courtesy to sales clerks, office workers, and anyone on the street. Offer a smile and make eye contact to give them a feeling of respect.
  • Look for ways to make someone else’s life a little easier. Let the person behind you with one item at the grocery store go first. Offer a seat to an older or disabled person. Hold the door open for others.
  • Volunteer. There are always opportunities to show kindness to those less fortunate. Go work in a shelter or soup kitchen, build houses, visit a retirement home, pass out food or blankets to the homeless, or any other service project that you can find.

I’d like to pretend that our whole family acts like this all the time, but that’d be a lie. Life is messy. It’s tough to remember that this isn’t about what I’m supposed to make my kids do. It’s about what I do. I hope that with these ideas in the front of my mind, my kids will see kindness when they watch me and then put it into their own lives as well.