World Kindness Day
In a world where you can be anything, be kind.
This is one of my favorite sayings ever. It hangs in our home right by the door, so we see it every time we come and go. Like most important skills and behaviors we want our kids to embody, we can’t just tell them what it is or how to do it; we have to show them, multiple times, over a period of time, with a variety of examples. And even with that, their behaviors of kindness need to be reinforced so that the behaviors continue and increase. (Read: What is a Reinforcer?)
I’ve found that practicing this skill at home with family members is a great way to start.
To follow are a couple of ways that we promote kindness on a regular basis:
- Identify kind behaviors and how they make the receiver and giver feel. For example, when I hear my oldest daughter (8 years old) tell her brother (6 years old) that he cannot play with her or her toys, I will ask her privately why she doesn’t want him to play and how that might make him feel. I also ask her to recall times when she may have been included or left out and how that made her feel. Then, I ask her if there is a different, more kind way, she can include him or if she has any alternative suggestions (e.g., he can play next to her with some of her toys that she isn’t playing with, or they can play something else together after she is done). Identifying kind behaviors and pairing or connecting them with feelings can really help make the concept stick.
- Reinforce kind behaviors whenever they occur. My children often see that I am busy and have a lot on my plate, and many times they will ask me if there is anything they can do to help. This feels like the best gift they can give when I am feeling frazzled and overwhelmed. Sometimes there is nothing they can do to help. Sometimes there are small tasks I can give them to help me out. Either way, I always try to stop, say thank you, and give them a hug for being so kind and thoughtful. I also let them know how their kindness makes me feel which helps deepen the emotional connection when this happens.
How did I get my kids to ask? We try to demonstrate this constantly. They see my partner ask “what can I do to help you get out of the house” when I am trying to leave. They are encouraged to offer help when they see someone (like their Mom!) who needs help accomplishing a task. Most importantly, they are reinforced when they offer help by receiving smiles, hugs, and sometimes even treats.
Now, of course, it is impossible to reinforce every act of kindness your child engages in. The great part is that most acts of kindness are self-reinforcing. The feeling of satisfaction, happiness, and joy that a child feels after doing something kind for others will continue to imprint and increase those types of behaviors in the future.
Thankfully, there are so many books written for children to promote and teach kindness!
We want to share a few favorites that we love to read with our kids and can reference back to in our daily conversations:
|The BIG Umbrella
|What Does It Mean to Be Kind?
|I Walk with Vanessa
|Last Stop on Market Street
|The Kindness Book
So how are you going to celebrate World Kindness Day? How are you going to demonstrate this for your kids? What are your kids going to do? And how will you reinforce this important behavior?
Let us know in the comments section below. Why wait? Start today!
Written by Monica Yenokida, M.S., B.C.B.A.