As parents, we want our kids to be happy. We also want them to be kind, grateful, and helpful. Fortunately, happiness and caring go hand-in-hand—in fact, the more people help others the happier they become. That isn’t just fanciful idealism—scientists have discovered helping others activates the brain’s reward system. Our brains, in other words, are wired to help each other.
With that in mind, it’s important to encourage acts of kindness for kids. Here are a few suggestions to help teach children that being kind is it’s own special reward.
Keep it Simple
Don’t make acts of kindness for kids too complicated. Kindness doesn’t have to be a major event—if anything, it’s the small, spontaneous acts of kindness people remember the most.
Helping set the table is an act of kindness. So too is hugging grandma, playing with a smaller child, feeding the cat, picking up trash at the park, and smiling at the cashier at the grocery store. If you need ideas to help your child be kind, read him I See Me’s I Can Change the World personalized book, which is full of small acts of kindness for kids.
Catch Kids Being Kind
Like adults, kids like to have their acts recognized and praised. Watch for children being kind, and let them know you appreciate it by telling them so. Expressions like “I love that you’re so kind,” or “that was a very thoughtful thing to do,” reinforce how much you recognize a child’s kindness, and encourage them to keep being compassionate and caring.
Kids are always watching their parents and looking for opportunities to model mom and dad’s behavior. Take advantage of this by demonstrating what it means to be kind. Again, your acts of compassion don’t necessarily have to be large. Helping an elderly stranger pack her groceries, volunteering, or helping a spouse do the dishes all demonstrate kindness. The kids will be watching.
Your biggest sources of inspiration for finding acts of kindness for kids are often the kids themselves. Talk to them about their day, and ask them if they were kind or if they saw someone else being thoughtful. Talk about the actions of characters in books, movies, and television, asking children if the character was acting with kindness or not. (for instance, in Beauty and the Beast, Belle is kind when she takes her father’s place at the caste, while the Beast learns to be kind over time). Stories like our I Can Change the World personalized book are ideal for such conversations, which can lead into how children can act with kindness and compassion.