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Kindess Matters

Kindness Matters

October 29, 2018     By Kris Hallstrom, Manager of the Boys Town National Hotline

Family, Praise, Respect, Teachable Moments, Teaching Kindness

"Kindness is not an act.  It is a lifestyle."

How do we teach kindness to our kids so it's a lifelong habit?  To help kids internalize the virtue of being kind, there are several different approaches that parents can take.

 "If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours."

First, kids need to have an awareness of their environment and the people around them. At different points of development, children are naturally self-centered. In addition, with busy family schedules it is easy to be so focused on the next task or activity that we forget to pay attention what is going on right in front of us. We need to be mindful to slow things down, listen, and observe.

Next time you take a walk with your kids, pause to take in the sights and sounds around you.  Rather than focusing on the destination, identify sounds, colors, smells. Being present in the moment can help clear the mind, strengthen instincts, and calm emotions. Being present also allows us to look outside of ourselves and notice other people that we come into contact with. 

 "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about."

The second approach in teaching kindness is to help children to develop a sense of empathy and compassion toward others. Empathy is the ability to look outside of ourselves and understand the needs of others.  Prompting your kids to be kind to a sibling, family member, friend or neighbor who is experiencing a struggle can be taught at a very early age.  A kind act can be as simple as a hug, a compliment, doing a chore, or drawing someone a picture.

Help your kids to think about the big picture and look at situations from different angles. If a classmate says or does something mean, or a teacher seems to always be irritable, help your child to consider that there may be things going on in that person's life to cause that behavior.

Be a role model for showing empathy and compassion in front of your kids.  How do you react when someone is driving slowly in front of you and you are in a hurry? What comments do you make when you don't get the service that you want in a restaurant? These situations can provide great opportunities to help your kids realize that there might be another side of the other person's story. With an attitude of empathy in our daily lives, we can improve the lives of everyone around us.

 "Be kind to yourself; then let your kindness fill the world."

Finally, kindness begins within and spreads outward. When kids are kind to themselves they learn to accept their own imperfections and mistakes. They begin to believe in themselves and others, and are better able to consider the feelings of others. Practicing healthy ways to cope with problems and emotions allows them to be more resilient and to look outside of themselves. When kids are kind to others, they not only feel better about themselves but they are able to positively influence the way others treat them.

In a world where the daily news is filled with so many negative reports and events, it is important to teach kids the value of kindness and the positive effect it has on themselves and others.

"In a world where you can be anything, be kind."

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