This week the BFBN (Babywise-friendly blogging network) is all blogging on the same subject: principles of Babywise that don’t include sleep or schedules. I know, I know! You probably thought that was all there is to Babywise, but there is SO much more. There is actually an entire series of books from newborn up until teenager. The topic I’m focusing on today is why and how to teach children kindness.
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Why We Teach Children Kindness
The book On Becoming Childwise has 15 principles, and I am focusing today on Principle #4: Instill morality into a child and his behavior will fall into place.
Let’s dig right in!
Chapter Four of On Becoming Childwise says “We know you want to instill honesty, empathy, compassion, kindness, gentleness, respect, honor, and self-control in your children. This is not a wish list from never-never land. It is a reasonable goal for your children. But they are not born with these virtues. They’re cultivated. It is the duty of the parents to put character into their children and not sit back and hope good character emerges naturally. It won’t.”
Well then. That’s a lot of pressure, right? It makes absolute sense. We have to teach our children how to hold a spoon and wipe their bottoms (we have only successfully mastered one of these in our household), so OF COURSE, we need to teach them how to be kind. It is a learned behavior. So how do we teach it?
How We Teach Children Kindness
We are right in the throes of this with our 3.5-year-old, Theo. We are focusing so hard on teaching him to be kind (click here to read about how we are handling other issues with our threenager). There are 5 basic things we are doing in an attempt to teach kindness. I’ll update when he’s an adult and let you know if it worked! Ha.
1. Describe kindness
We point out to Theo when someone does something kind. Whether it’s a stranger holding a door for us, Theo sharing his toys with his sister, or daddy helping some friends move, we let him know that the action is a kind one, and it makes us feel good.
You can also read books on kindness. Here are a few really great books on the topic:
Daniel Chooses to Be Kind (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood)
Strictly No Elephants
The Berenstain Bears: Kindness Counts (under $3 on Amazon!)
How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids
The Kindness Quilt
2. Discuss how we feel when we do kind things:
I ask Theo how he feels first because I don’t want to put words in his mouth. I want him to think, process, and respond on his own. “Theo, you shared your special Lambie with Margo, and she is laughing and smiling. How do you feel?” He will typically grin and respond with “happy!”
3. Discuss how we feel when someone does something kind for us
I am trying to make the point to Theo that the joy he feels when a neighbor brings him a slice of homemade pizza or his daddy takes him on a special adventure or his sister giving him hugs and kisses is a feeling that he gives to people when he is kind.
4. Demonstrate kindness
Not just to your family, but to everyone! Smile, say please and thank you, hold the door, offer to help your neighbor rake their leaves, etc., etc., etc. We can’t expect our children to demonstrate acts of kindness if we, the parents, aren’t doing it ourselves. Some great examples of demonstrating kindness is to do community service together as a family. Our kids are still a bit young for that, but can’t wait to start in a few years! If you are in the same situation as we are, don’t worry… small acts of kindness are just as important!
For parents that are working, maybe your children don’t see things you do throughout the day… tell them! We have learned that when my husband gets home, Theo doesn’t want to tell him about his day. He wants to run around and play. My husband wants to hear about our day, so he tells Theo about his day. He tells him what he had for lunch, if he went for a walk, and recently, he tells us about anything kind he did throughout the day. Theo in turn, will tell him about his day, bring out his kindess jar (see my next point!) to tell his daddy of the kind things he did.
5. Reward kindness
Now before you roll your eyes here and insist that children should be kind just out of principle, hear me out. I completely agree. But people are all inherently selfish, and it starts with children. Of course, a three-year-old doesn’t want to share his dump truck with his baby sister. He wants to play with it himself. Of course, I don’t want to clean up the kitchen and let my husband relax. I do because I know how kindness makes everyone feel, and that is rewarding to me.
Theo earns kindness balls that he can fill his kindness jar with. Our kindness jar is nothing fancy. It’s just a large mason jar. I fully intended to make it look cute, but yeah… I have 3 little kids, so that didn’t happen. When his jar is full, we get to go get ice cream, which is pretty much the most special treat in the world in Theo’s eyes. Once he gets ice cream a few times, I might change up the reward, depending on how it’s working.
Does he get a kindness ball every single time he does something nice? No. Do we sometimes put an idea in his head of something kind he can do? Of course. He’s 3. My goal is to teach, and I don’t expect results right away. When he fills up his jar, we dump it out in awe, and I point out to Theo that every ball is for something sweet and nice that he did. I make a really big deal out of it.
If you have other things you do to help teach your children kindness, I would love to hear them! Please share them in the comments.
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Check out the rest of the posts by the mamas of the BFBN. We are all blogging about principles of the Babywise series that don’t include sleep or scheduling. Lots of great content, so be sure to read them all! Links will go live day of.
- Monday – How to Correct Your Preteen – Valerie – Chronicles of a Babywise Mom
- Monday – How to Solve the Wise in His Own Eyes Problem -Natasha – Let’s Be Brave
- Tuesday – Intentional Parenting: How Our Beliefs and Goals Shape Our Parenting Decisions – Kimberly – Team Cartwright
- Tuesday –5 Ways to Teach Children Kindness – Caitlin – Rogers Party of 5
- Wednesday – How To Give Instructions to Your Toddler & Achieve Successful Results –Katrina – Mama’s Organized Chaos
- Thursday – Self-Control is a Base Virtue – Cole – Twinning Babywise
- Thursday – Temper Tantrums & the Happy Heart Rug – Carrie – Wiley Adventures
- Friday – How to Teach Your Child Self-Control -Emily – The Journey of Parenthood