{     Offering the Best Childhood Preparation for Social and Academic Success.     }

Archive for the ‘Manners’ Category

Helping Children Develop an Attitude of Gratitude

testing-blog-graphics-5

By Jennifer Jipson, Ph.D.

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

This is the time of year when social media, magazine and news stories and blogs (like this one) encourage us to reflect on the parts of our lives that we are most thankful for and to express appreciation for those who make our lives full. As a parent, my thoughts go immediately to my children. I am grateful to be sharing the experiences of life with them, and I hope that the things I say and do show them how important they are to me. As I write this post, though, I wonder what am doing as a parent to help them develop an attitude of gratitude.   

One place to start is to use the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday as a reason to think about how much we appreciate our family members and help your children come up with ways to show them how much we value them. Although gathering with family members may be tricky this year due to pandemic-related health concerns, we can be grateful for the resources of the modern worlthat provide us with many ways to stay connected, even from a distance. Here are some ideas for preschool-age children that might inspire them to feel and show gratitude toward others. 

Art with Heart – Making art for others is an enjoyable childhood activity – not only do children get to create art, but they get to enjoy someone’s enthusiastic response when they receive it. I’m a big fan of process-oriented art in which the focus is on using materials creatively in an open-ended way rather than producing a specific set outcome. Instead of asking children to make a leaf wreath or handprint turkey, provide them with a variety of materials and invite them to create something they think Grandpa would like. As they think about Grandpa, encourage them to reflect on what makes him so special, and write down what they say.  You can send Grandpa the artwork in the mail, take a photo and send it to his phone or ask your children to show the artwork to Grandpa over video chat. Include a note in which you share why your children think he is so special 

A Week of Warmth – Print out pictures of family members, turn them facedown and pick a new face from your pile each week. Start a conversation about that special family member in which you help your children reflect on how this person shows care and interest, what they do that your children appreciate and how your children feel when they think about that family member.  Each day of the week, have your children send a short video or text that they think will make that family member feel special. 

Sweet Treats – Invite your children to think of a kind of treat they’d like to make and who they’d like to send it toThis idea is a two-for-one – it has all of the benefits of a fun cooking activity (link to Lee’s blog on this topic herecombined with a way to show appreciation for family member far away.  When the family member receives the treat, ask that person to call (or start a video chat) so that your children can explain why they’re thankful for that person in their lives. Pro tip – Make a double batch so you can also leave one out to thank the mail carriers for what they do for your community, or make a triple batch and give one to your children’s teachers. 

Activities like the ones above help children pay attention to what they value about their family members and engage in age-appropriate ways to say, “Thank you for being in my life.” Combining conversations about how children feel with activities they can do to show thanks is the secret recipe for supporting children’s capacity for gratitude 

Five Ways to Teach Children about Gratitude

grateful child

by Kyle Pruett, M.D. Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

No matter how many place settings there were to accommodate three generations of Pruetts at our Thanksgiving Feast table, everyone had a seat at the grown-up or kids’ table. Every celebration I can remember began with my father−a pastor by trade−telling everyone to hold hands and, starting with the oldest, share one thing for which they were grateful on this day. It was hard to be patient, sitting there, mouths watering, and wondering what you were going to say when it was your turn. In this simple act, we learned that gratitude was what made this meal different from all others. I was amazed year after year by how seriously everyone took this charge. Answers ran from sacred to profane, but the lesson was clear; families thrive on gratitude.

However your family chooses to celebrate Thanksgiving, it is an important opportunity to affirm values that most parents hope (or wish) their kids were developing naturally. The bounty of family life−so obvious on the dining room table−is less obvious to our younger children, and most of them need a little help seeing the connections between what we share as a family and how we feel about belonging to that family. While children seem to have a natural drift toward empathy, even compassion, feeling grateful for what they have is a harder sell. Grown-ups need to place this high on their agenda, along with plenty of patience for this sapling graft to take hold. Before you start, think about why this matters to you and how you got that way. Share those thoughts with your partner, and make a plan about how to sell gratitude as a family value to your children, as it is one of those desired human values that does not always unfold naturally, as our children grow.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Regularly express your own thankfulness verbally. (We are very lucky to have grandma nearby. I’m thankful to have a son like you in my life. Your dad made that so easy for all of us.)
  • Express gratitude behaviorally. (Take a casserole to a neighbor who has been kind or needs some extra help for whatever reason−even better if the children help you make it. When the hand-me-down toys end their cycle, make a Goodwill run with the children in tow.)
  • Make generosity part of your family’s routine. (When seasons change, collect clothes from everyone’s closet to donate or take canned goods to the local soup kitchen.)
  • Take the children along on community fundraising activities, runs, walks, etc. Explain to them why this matters to you. (Make sure they meet the organizers and understand the purpose; if it’s personal, it’s remembered)

Consider this: regularly planned simple activities can make children feel useful and appreciated as givers, not takers, which is the antidote to gratitude). These are the roots of self-esteem, not reward or praise.

Five Books That Teach Children About Caring And Giving

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Educators have long known that storytelling is an essential part of learning. Stories help children absorb information and connect the story to their experiences. Here are five books that teach the lessons of caring and giving in an engaging manner:

  1. Giving Thanks by Katherine Paterson (Author), Pamela Dalton (Illustrator)

Giving Thanks by Katherine Paterson (Author), Pamela Dalton (Illustrator)

2. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett (Author), Jon Klassen (Illustrator)

Extra Yarn children's book cover

3. Boxes for Katie by Candice Fleming

Boxes for Katje Book Cover

4. When Stories Fell Like Shooting Stars, Valiska Gregory

When Stories Fell Like Shooting Stars, Valiska Gregory

5. Random Acts, More Random Acts, –and– Kids Random Acts of Kindness by Conari Press

Random Acts, More Random Acts, --and-- Kids Random Acts of Kindness by Conari Press

 

Creative Ways to Teach Your Children to Say Please and Thank You

Toddler spelling Thank You with foam blocks

By Helen Hadani, Ph.D.
Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Parents all want their children to be polite and have good manners. One of the first steps is teaching your children to use the magic word when asking for something and then thanking them when they (hopefully) get what they requested. Teaching your children manners is an ongoing process that takes patience and persistence. Young children respond differently to family members, friends and strangers, and the environment also plays an important role, so children often act differently at school than at home. Don’t be surprised if your children’s teachers say they are very polite at school, but you struggle to get a “please” or “thank you” out of them at home.

Here are some creative ways to encourage your children to mind their Ps and Qs:

  • Engage in pretend play that involves asking for something or provides an opportunity to thank someone, such as imaginary tea parties (“Please pass the cookies.”), restaurants (“May I please order another pizza?”) or schools (“Thank you for sitting so nicely during circle time.”);
  • When reading books with your child, highlight when characters are polite and considerate of other people’s feelings (“I bet the bear felt good when his friend thanked him for bringing him some honey.”). It can also be helpful to point out to your children how happy they feel when someone thanks them for doing something good;
  • Close the day with gratitude and giving thanks. At dinner or bedtime, ask each member of the family to say thank you for something that happened that day. If your children are stuck, prompt them with a question like “What was your favorite thing today?” and guide them to say thank you for that thing;
  • Teach your children how to say please and thank you in a different language. This can be a fun way to introduce your children to a foreign language and show them that there are many different ways to be polite.

 

Three Approaches to Teaching Your Child to Be Kind

women holding preschool child

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

We all want our children to be happy, well liked and good to others. How do we support our children in learning to be kind? This topic often comes up in fall as children make new friends at school, and it is part of the National Bullying Prevention Month messages. This year, we will want to use same approaches to online interactions since so many children are interacting with classmates, friends and family members through video chats.  

Children develop social-emotional skills in many ways. The three approaches that make the most impact are modeling role playing and playing games, and storytelling. Parents can help to build a foundation for their young children by incorporating these approaches in their families’ daily activities.   

Modeling – Act kind yourself. Modeling is by far the best way to instill kind behavior in your children. Children love to imitate us, and if we act in a kind manner, they will, tooPraise your children when they exhibit kindness, and explain why you thought what they did was a kind thing to do. It’ll become a habit. When you see kindness in others, share your thoughts with your children. “That was so kind of Jane to share her snack with you at school.” In an online situation, compliment your child (i.e., “You waited your turn to speak.  That was great!”). When our children hear the praise we give others, they will want to exhibit the same behavior. Try not to be negative, and redirect your children when they act unkindly. For example, explain how the other person may feel, talk about what your children could have done differently and help your children apologize.  

Role Playing and Playing Games – Create opportunities for your child to play. Your child will act out reallife situations while playing with stuffed animals, robotic toys and dolls. Interacting in unguided play with other children also supports learning to get along with others. Playing games can be part of dramatic play, tooGames help children learn to take turns and develop sportsmanship. Try games where your children need to collaborate with another player to win. Relay races, parachute games and family scavenger hunts are several good choices.   

Reading and Sharing Stories – Read stories where the characters must make decisions about their behaviors. Talk about the consequences of both kind and not-so-kind actions. Children learn through the stories by relating to the characters and the events. Here are some favorites that focus on kindness to get you started: 

  • If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson 
  • I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët 
  • Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton 
  • The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace 
  • Possum’s Harvest Moon by Anne Hunter 

You can also share stories from your childhood or from your family’s experiences. These are important to young children and can help them learn life’s lessons. 

 

Be Kind to One Another: Encouraging Children to Embrace Diversity

be-kind-to-one-another-2

by Katie Kennedy, Ph.D., Research Consultant, Bay Area Discovery Museum, colleague of the Goddard School Education Advisory Board 

Growing up in a small town in the Midwest, I was exposed to very little diversity. Most of the diversity I saw was on televisionand to be honest, television wasn’t even that good at representing diversity in the 90s.  

As I got older, however, I became interested both in working with diverse populations and studying children’s understanding of diversity. Through these experiences, it became evident that in spite of the common notion that opposites attractpeople often stick close to others who are like themselves.  

Although parents may find it somewhat concerning that children seem to prefer to play with peers who are similar to themselves, it is important to recognize that there is a natural tendency for boys to play with boys and girls to play with girls. It’s instinctive to want to group people by social categories like gender and race, and individuals are often most comfortable staying close to those whom they find most similar to themselvesA rich body of developmental psychology research has documented that even young children are aware of social category divides, and they use these groupings to make decisions, such as which children to befriend, help or trust as sources of information 

The world today is filled with a melting pot of people, and children should be urged to spend time with those who are different from themselves along such dimensions as beliefs, behaviors and appearanceThis is critical because, as research has shown, contact with people from different racial and ethnic groups is associated with less adverse beliefs about diverse others. 

As adults, we need to provide children with opportunities to have positive experiences interacting with diverse people, such as traveling to new places, going to ethnic restaurants and viewing television shows that promote foreign language learning like Dora the Explorer and Ni Hao Kai LanIn a world where it is much too common to see people being unkind to individuals who are unlike themselves, we can inspire the next generation to have open hearts and minds. We can learn a lot from one another if only we are willing. As Ellen DeGeneres says at the end of every show, “Be kind to one another.”  

 

Four Ways to Implement Positive Discipline at Home

blog-image-3

Positive discipline is a popular topic right now. Parents, teachers and other caregivers all want to help raise happy, healthy children, but the constant influx of advice can be overwhelming. To help streamline this information and ensure all Goddard School faculty members, directors and Goddard School owners have up-to-date knowledge of cutting-edge early childhood education topics, GSI offers Goddard Systems University (GSU). GSU is a treasure trove of professional development tools for improving the processes, protocols and culture at Goddard Schools.

Recently, GSU held a webinar on positive discipline. As a mom who struggles to maintain a positive attitude when my son flings his food or has an epic meltdown because I’ve asked him to eat, I immediately signed up for the course. Though it was designed for Goddard School faculty members, some of this great information can apply to parents and other caregivers.

Here are a few of my takeaways from the positive discipline webinar.

1. Positive relationships are the keys to positive discipline.

Caregivers must build a loving, trusting relationship with the children in their care because this relationship sets the foundation for everything. Children need to feel safe and secure; if they don’t, they’re more likely to exhibit challenging behaviors.

2. Step back and determine the reason for the behavior.

The first step in implementing positive discipline is to understand the reasons for challenging behaviors. As adults, we must prevent ourselves from escalating the situation, no matter how frustrated we may feel. Instead, reframe your thoughts about the tantrum. Ask yourself, “What response is the child trying to get from this behavior?”

All behavior, appropriate or not, is a reaction to a stimulus. Use the challenging behavior as a teaching moment to help you figure out what may have caused this behavior. Remember, children learn social-emotional responses, including body language, from adults.

3. Don’t explain appropriate and inappropriate behavior during a meltdown.

During a meltdown, children don’t have the bandwidth to understand rational ideas. That doesn’t mean you should walk away. Instead, show them how to calm down. Some ideas include breathing deeply, squeezing a bear, sitting in a “cozy corner” or blowing a pinwheel. Whatever you choose should focus on helping them get their negative feelings out. Once your children are calm, you can explain why the behavior was inappropriate and reinforce appropriate ways to respond to situations that upset them.

Something that really hit home for me was learning about the message adults send if they walk away from a child during a meltdown. Walking away shows children that it’s better to ignore a problem. Worse yet, children may interpret an adult walking away as their caregiver being detached and indifferent. The results of walking away may show up as children enter adolescence. Despite our best efforts to encourage our children to talk to us when they have problems, they will not feel safe having open discussions with us if they perceive us to have a history of being indifferent.

4. Remember PIES, STAR and ART

Children feel confident when their environment meets their PIES needs: their physical, intellectual, emotional and social needs. By ensuring all their PIES needs are met, caregivers have a greater chance of preventing challenging behaviors. If a challenging behavior occurs, remember to STAR: smile, take a deep breath and relax. Then you can act by demonstrating the ART principles: acknowledge the child’s feelings, respond to those feelings and think about how to respond with empathy and clear expectations.

How do you practice positive discipline at home?

How Children Learn Manners Through Every Stage of Early Childhood

blog-titles-9

 By Jack Maypole, MD
Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Starting at a young age, children will need to develop social skills and learn how to get along with others. How they get along in the world is largely determined by how they behave with those other people. Developing manners is a great place to start.

What has always made manners a complex issue for parents is that of all the incredible abilities our children are born with, the ability to behave appropriately is not among them. Manners must be learned. Learning how to behave sensitively and sensibly toward others begins with how parents behave with each other and their children. This task might feel daunting, but it is less so when separated into the stages of early childhood.

Infancy – Observing
Babies watch us like hawks. They see how we treat one another; how much regard we have for the needs of others; how we wait for our turns, share and help out (or not); what the tones of our voices are; and what the expressions on our faces are as we interact in everyday life.

Toddlerhood – Laying a strong foundation
Ask your children to hand you the cereal bowls when they are finished, and introduce the magic word “please” as part of family life. The magic is the smile on the parent’s face when these words get used – the meaning and intent come later. Empathy usually starts to develop by the end of this period. Around 18 months old, children begin to figure out that others have feelings similar to theirs, so it makes sense to introduce vocabulary such as “excuse me” and “sorry” and the regular use of people’s names when asking or telling them something.

Preschool – Building that strong foundation
Sharing and turn-taking should be easily understood and expected more often than not. It’s also important to explain, in simple terms, the impact of behaviors on others: “We just don’t hit. It hurts, and you don’t like it when it happens to you.”

Kindergarten – Setting expectations
Expect your children to pick up their toys and dirty clothes, help set or clear the table, keep their hands to themselves, be fair to others most of the time and introduce themselves to others once they learn how to do it in preschool using dolls or puppets.

Teaching Diversity to Your Kids

56765.png

Studies have found that infants as young as 3 months instinctively categorize people based on their sex, skin color, and the language they speak. Between 5 and 9 months, babies begin to learn about race based on experience, according to a study in the journal Developmental Science. Research shows that 3- to 5-year-olds not only categorize people by race but express bias based on it. Overcoming these types of inherent prejudice will take a proactive effort on your part, and it needs to start early – before your child’s opinions are fully formed.

Tolerance is an absolute necessity in our increasingly global and multicultural society. So-called racial and ethnic minorities now make up the majority of children born in the U.S. By 2043, nearly half of the population will be people of color, according to U.S. Census projections. Our nation is becoming diverse in other ways too. Islam and Mormonism are among America’s fastest-growing religions. Same-sex marriage is legal in 37 states plus the District of Columbia. More than 35 million people now speak Spanish as their primary language at home. And our school system is increasingly placing children with disabilities in regular rather than specialized classrooms.

“Today’s kids are going to have to interact with people from many backgrounds and cultures, as well as with those who don’t look or act like they do,” says Rebecca Bigler, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, whose research focuses on children’s racial attitudes. “Celebrating diversity, not merely tolerating it, is going to be key to their success.” She and others share the steps you can take to teach your child how to be open-minded toward others.

Recognize That Your Child Isn’t Color-Blind

Experts say one big mistake parents make (especially white Americans) is assuming that their children are unaware of race. “We always hear, ‘Oh, my child doesn’t even see skin color,'” Dr. Bigler says. “But kids absolutely do notice.”

As they grow, children look for cues about what different appearances mean and which ones matter. They quickly realize that some things– whether someone wears a hat, for example – are irrelevant while others, such as sex, are significant because we talk about them constantly (“Boys line up on the left, girls on the right”). What about race? Obviously, we don’t say, “Good morning, black and white children,” or “Asians, go get your backpacks.” But even if you never say a word about ethnicity, racial distinctions are plainly visible to kids. “Many communities are highly segregated, which children notice. You’ll be driving through town and your preschooler is thinking, ‘Oh, here’s where the Chinese people live,'” Dr. Bigler says.

Children’s tendency to assign traits based on race accelerates in grade school. So if all the teachers at your child’s school are white while only people of color work in the lunchroom and handle security, the inequity will not be lost on your kid. By age 7, most African-American kids believe whites are more likely to hold high-status jobs, according to Dr. Bigler’s study findings. “If you don’t change your kids’ outlook when they’re young, they’ll come to their own incorrect conclusions,” says Kristina Olson, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Washington, who studies racial attitudes among kids.

Start Talking

Aside from observing skin color, even a preschooler can see that some people are big and others are skinny, that some celebrate Christmas and others Hanukkah, and that certain kids are smarter than others. And if your local gas-station attendant has a thick accent, she’ll notice that too.

Are you talking about these differences? Probably not. A study published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology found that approximately 57 percent of parents of white children never or almost never discussed race with them. Black parents, though, are far more likely to bring it up. “People of color have to prepare their children for uncomfortable moments,” says Shauna Robinson, of Thousand Oaks, California, who is black. She broached the topic with her then 5-year-old son, Lexington, by reading him Chocolate Me!, which is about a boy who is teased for having dark skin and curly hair.

With a child who is 3 or 4, you can explain that people come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. “You could even try holding up a green apple and a red apple,” suggests Maureen Costello, director of the Teaching Tolerance project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, in Montgomery, Alabama. “Say, ‘They look different on the outside, but they’re both apples on the inside, just like people.'” Seek out opportunities to demonstrate your respect and appreciation for these contrasts. You might say, “Look at that girl. Aren’t her braids pretty?” or, “Did you hear that boy speak Italian to his grandma and then English to his friend? I wish I could speak more than one language.”

If your child asks something that makes you squirm, do your best to respond matter-of-factly. “We tend to avoid these questions,” says Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D., author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race. “But that doesn’t keep kids from noticing.”

Dr. Tatum recalls a mortifying moment when her then 4-year-old son pointed to a large woman and said loudly, “Mommy, why is that woman so fat?” “My first response was to say ‘Shhh!'” Dr. Tatum says. “Then I caught myself and told him, ‘People come in all sizes. Some people are big and some are little, some are tall and some are short.'”

Explain about Stereotypes and Racism

Kids already have certain biases about other cultures by age 5 or 6. Don’t be surprised if your child repeats something derogatory she heard at school.  When she does, let her know that while some people in a group may seem to fit a certain description it doesn’t mean everyone is that way, Costello says. That’s your cue to introduce the idea of discrimination: “Sometimes people decide that everyone with dark skin is mean or that people who aren’t white are bad. That’s wrong, and it makes me sad. It’s not fair to judge someone without knowing him or her.”

Bring up the stereotypes your child sees in movies and on TV. “If you turn the sound off on cartoon shows and ask who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy, kids know instantly by the way the characters appear,” Dr. Tatum says. The solution isn’t to stop watching but to point out the problems you see. For instance, you could watch The Little Mermaid, with its enormous villain, Ursula. Then say, “It’s a shame that overweight characters are depicted as evil. I know lots of nice people who are heavy.”

You should also be honest about the fact that discrimination still exists. “If you talk about past inequalities and then tell your child, ‘We’ve fixed that and we’re all equal now,’ it can actually encourage prejudicial beliefs because children will see remaining inequalities as the result of how hard people work,” says Erin Winkler, Ph.D., a diversity and racism expert at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. “Instead, talking honestly about systematic racial bias – like how wealth inequity is not a reflection of individual efforts, but rather tied to the legacy of discrimination – can help your child understand that these are not individual issues.”

Research bears this out. Dr. Bigler had elementary-school children read biographies of famous African Americans. One group’s stories included details about how the person had encountered forms of racial discrimination; the other group’s didn’t. Afterward, the kids whose books included the true historical context found the subjects more likable and sympathetic.

Lead by Example

For your child to become truly open-minded toward all people, you need to be a positive role model. In a study in Child Development, the lone factor shown to reduce children’s prejudice was whether their parents had a friend of another race. “If you say, ‘We should be friends with all kinds of people’ but the only ones who come over for dinner are those who look like you, what’s your child going to think?” Dr. Olson says.

Lots of parents talk a good game about embracing diversity, yet subtly communicate something very different. Do you laugh when you hear a joke about a racial group? Are you willing to point out intolerance when you see it? “We know that kids learn from what they see more than from what they hear,” Costello says.

Expose Your Child to Diversity Regularly

An analysis of more than 500 studies on prejudice published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that the more contact people of all ages have with those from backgrounds that contrast with their own, the less likely they are to be biased.

Rebecca Anderson, a mom in Charlotte, North Carolina, chose a preschool for her son Zach where half the children had physical disabilities. “I believed that exposing him to special-needs kids would make him more accepting of all people,” she says. When it came time for kindergarten, she and her husband, who are white, decided to send Zach to a Spanish-immersion magnet school that was only about one-quarter white. Now in sixth grade, Zach is not only fluent in Spanish but comfortable around all kinds of people, Anderson says.

If you don’t have the option of enrolling your child in a diverse school, look for ethnically mixed sports leagues, libraries, and parks. Attend multicultural festivals. Bring home books that depict kids of various backgrounds. Show interest in other religions and cultures, and build friendships with people who don’t look like you. “If you want your child to become comfortable dealing with all types of people, you have to take her to places where she’s going to encounter them,” Costello says.

Julianne Weiner’s son Ben had already had that type of exposure. So before his first anxious day of preschool, she reminded him about the people he knew and liked who had brown skin. She pointed out that there are many shades of skin, even showing him that his hand is darker than his belly. “None of it seemed to register, and we were worried he’d say something that would offend his teacher,” Weiner says. “Instead, Ben had a great year, and that teacher became one of his favorites.”

Smart Answers to Tough Questions

Field cringe-worthy queries without flinching.

“Why is that man’s skin dark?”
“Skin contains something called melanin, which makes us different colors. Some people have more than others. We’re all part of a beautiful rainbow, aren’t we?”

“Why does that girl talk funny?”
“That’s called an accent. Her family came from a country where they speak another language.”

“Why is he in a wheelchair?”
“Some people’s legs don’t work, so they need a chair with wheels to get from place to place.”

“Why is that woman so fat?”
“People come in all shapes and sizes, and that’s what makes the world such an interesting place.”

“Why does that man wear a funny wrap on his head?”
“That’s called a turban. He wears it because it’s part of his religion, like other people may wear a cross.”

 

This article was written by Michelle Crouch from Parents and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

7 Random Acts of Kindness Ideas for Kids

download45.png

“Be nice, and don’t be a bully.” Chances are your kids hear that all the time—at home, at school, or during their after-school activities. Instead of making kindness just another rule, what if we showed kids that it’s a superpower they can choose every day to make both themselves and others feel good?

Research shows that being kind increases happiness and well-being, and that kindness can lead to increases in peer acceptance. Here are 7 ideas for acts of kindness you can do with your child to help them grow confident in their abilities to impact the world around them.

 

A family shares a kind note at a Kindness.org event. 

 

1. Share a kind note

Words matter. What does your child have to say? Ask what kindness means to them and help them choose someone to surprise with a kind note. A new classmate, a friend, or a teacher’s aide are all great choices.

Your child’s note can be anything they want it to be, from a kind word on a piece of paper to a homemade card or letter you put in the mail together.

2. Demonstrate the power of encouragement

Grab some colorful sticky notes and pens. Ask your child to fill them with encouraging compliments like “You’re awesome”, “You can do this”, or “You’re a good friend.” Tell them you’re collecting them for someone special as a surprise.

When your child isn’t looking, add their name to the notes and hide them around the house for them to discover.

3. Pick up litter together

The next time you’re taking a walk with your child, collect a few items of litter together. It’s a great time to have a conversation about how each of us has the power to make the world around us more beautiful.

You can do this act of kindness in so many places—from the playground to the parking lot. While there are no guarantees, your child might just take a little more interest in keeping their toys from “littering” the carpet.

 

Kind note from a child that reads,

 

4. Find someone to thank

A kind word goes a long way. Wherever you go with your child, there is almost always someone you can thank for their help!

Encourage your child to say thanks to a teacher, a grocery store cashier, or someone holding the door for them. You can even make a game out of finding people to thank together.

5. Add gratitude to your evening routine

Asking your child what they are grateful for can be an eye-opening (and profound) experience. Try asking your child before bedtime what made them happy that day.

Kindness.org co-founder and chief strategist Melissa Burmester shares, “I’ve started doing this with my two-year-old and it’s become one of my favorite times of the day. Yesterday she was grateful for sunshine, fig bars, and Grandma. The day before that it was puddles to jump in.”

6. Play “I Spy Kindness”

Kindness is all around us if we start looking. Unexpected smiles. People helping strangers carry shopping bags. Someone who gives up their seat on the bus or train.

The more kind acts kids witness, the more ideas they’ll have for kind acts of their own! The next time you’re out running errands together, make a game out of spotting acts of kindness.

7. See something, do something

Kids pay attention and see more than we think. The next time your child asks a question about someone who is experiencing homelessness or about an issue on the news like immigration, do one small thing about it together as a family.

Help your child give gently used clothing to a shelter for families, make a donation, or volunteer together.

Jaclyn Lindsey, CEO and co-founder of Kindness.org, reminds us that while children may have trouble understanding the complexity of these issues, by doing an act as a family you are empowering them to feel like they can help.

“As a mom to 9-month-old Abel, I hope when he’s old enough to perceive these challenges, my husband and I have led by example. We want him to instinctively treat all people with dignity, never jump to conclusions about someone because of their circumstances, and to never look down on someone unless he is helping them up.”

Every act, no matter how small, makes a difference. (That goes for you, too!) Help your child engage their kindness superpowers today!

Jaclyn Lindsey and Melissa Burmester are the co-founders of Kindness.org, a nonprofit whose mission is to educate and inspire people to choose kindness through scientific research, education, and storytelling. 

 

This article was written by Melissa Burmester and Jaclyn Lindsey from Parents and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.