Spreading kindness makes the world a better place. Remember when Cinderella’s mother told her “You have more kindness in your little finger than most people possess in their whole body, and it has power”? That’s a wonderful message to give your kids.
In fact, I suspect that raising kind kids tops the parenting goals for many parents, but sometimes life gets in the way of teaching kindness. Things like academics, sports, and play dates often take center stage during the school year while camps, family reunions, and lazy days lead the way in the summer.
As we made our way home from the park the other day, my kids and I stopped to watch a young girl play tennis. She looked to be about 11-years-old, and she was very talented. She was strong, accurate in her ball placement, and focused. She returned almost every shot that came her way from the other kids in the class. I was mesmerized.
After watching for a few minutes, my daughter — who is quiet and observant by nature — whispered, “I want to play like her when I’m that age.” My son, who is competitive beyond what I can even describe, stood silent beside her. I met my daughter’s eyes and smiled. “She hasn’t missed a shot”, I mused. And that’s when he finally spoke. “She missed a few shots before, Mommy. She has missed some shots.” With that, I sat him down for a little lesson in kindness on the sidelines.
“Her successes are not your failures,” I told him. “When you look for success in others instead of searching for failures, you learn things. And you make new friends. That’s more valuable than winning or being the best.”
The silence returned for a few moments, and then he shared his observations, “She’s really great because she always knows where the ball will go and she hits the hardest of anyone.”
We don’t know that little girl, but we certainly enjoyed watching her play that day. Before we walked away we each told her how much we enjoyed watching her play tennis. We each paid her a compliment. She smiled, thanked us, and ran back to her instructor for a hug.
It reminded me of something else Cinderella’s mother told her: “Where there is kindness there is goodness, and where there is goodness, there is magic.” In sharing kind words, we helped someone else feel happy for a moment. There’s value in that, and my kids walked a little lighter all the way home.
Parenting tends to be go, go, go these days, and that makes it hard to grasp the teachable moments that pop up along the way. We have to grasp them, though, because raising kind kids will make the world a better place…one kid at a time.
Looking to raise a kid who is kind to others? Here’s how:
1. Teach them what happiness is really about. It’s fun when kids win trophies, medals, prizes, and other certificates of achievement– but that’s just stuff on the shelf. On the other hand, when kids are encouraged to be kind, to care for others, to make new friends, to take new risks, to be true to their own personalities, and to shine in their own way…that’s when they find real happiness. And here’s another thing: It’s important that kids know that no one is happy every moment of every day. We all face obstacles and work through difficult issues at times. Learning to cope with the hard stuff to return to the good stuff plays a vital role in creating lifelong happiness.
2. Encourage your kids to look for success in others. Whether or not your kids are naturally competitive, we live in a competitive culture. Everything seems to be a race to the finish these days, and results are almost instant. You can check grades every single day, if you wish, because technology pushed instant gratification to a new level. Kids seem to face competition of some kind around every corner these days, and that makes it difficult to put kindness first. So, teach your child to look for success in others, instead of constantly comparing themselves to others. When they play the comparison game, they seek out the other child’s failures. They learn to say, “Hey! I’m just as good as that kid!” This leads to a negative thought pattern and poor peer relationships. Teach them to build each other up by pointing out successes and praising their friends for a job well done.
3. Show them why it’s important to care for others. Kids tend to care a lot about the people who surround them. They love their families. They are loyal in friendship. They genuinely care about the people in their worlds. The trick is to expand that circle of caring. It’s tempting to shield kids from the difficult stuff happening around the world, but sometimes a little perspective can be a huge empathy builder. Talk about endangered animals; that’s always a safe place to start. Have a lemonade stand to raise money to donate to save a habitat or animal. When we care globally, we raise kids who care globally. That increases overall empathic and prosocial behavior.
4. Set a good example by doing something kind together. We tell our kids to be kind when we send them out into the world. But how much time do we spend showing them the meaning of kindness? Small acts of kindness make a big impact on little kids. Bake muffins for an elderly neighbor. Rake leaves for someone in need. Deliver groceries, visit a sick friend, or dog-sit for someone who needs an extra hand. When families engage in acts of kindness together, kids learn how to be kind to others.
5. Spend more special time together. Kids who are raised with unconditional love and spend quality time with their families develop a deeper understanding of the power of kindness and connection. You don’t need to plan a special outing or break the bank on the perfect family outdoor play stuff to spend quality time together; you simply need to make the time. Prioritize family game night. Read together by the fire. Bake cookies on a rainy day. Or watch a favorite movie together. I know I’m looking forward to the release of Disney’s Cinderella on September 15 so that I can get cozy with my daughter, eat some popcorn, and talk non-stop about the movie as it plays. (You can catch it, too – that’s the date it will be available on Blu-ray, Digital HD, and Disney Movies Anywhere.)
Kindness counts. Make kindness a priority in your parenting by showing your kids the secrets to living a kind and happy life.
More Parenting Tips:
- How to Help Your Child Make Friends
- How to Help Your Child Deal with Unkind Kids on the Playground
- How to Teach Your Kids About Gender Equality
*This post is sponsored by Disney. Thoughts and opinions are my own.