Just Be Kind – Teaching Kids Kindness

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Just be kind. It’s something I tell my daughter all the time. Over and over.

She’s got a good heart and I don’t see her acting intentionally mean towards people. But when she gets frustrated – a normal human emotion – her temper flares and her patience wavers.

Like her dad, and sometimes, here mama, she has little tolerance when people push her buttons. (As I always say, we are works in progress.)

“Just be kind” is a phrase I use often. And “how to be kind” is something I work on for myself, and something I intentionally try to teach her, too.

Because even when we need to set boundaries, we can still be kind. When we are frustrated, we can still be kind. When we are having a bad day, we can still be kind.

And in today’s current climate, with all of the bickering, debating, distractions, and sometimes, flat out hatefulness, it’s more important than ever to teach our kids to how to be kind.

Just be kind. It starts at home. With us.

What Does It Mean to Be Kind?

We can be kind. And we can be nice. While nice and kind can be interchangeable words at face value, I think there’s a difference when you look a little deeper.

Being nice, while good, is sometimes more about not rocking the boat. We are often nice because we want to please people.

We don’t want to make anyone mad. Or we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Being nice means not purposely causing any ill will. It’s not acting out with meanness or malice.

Being nice is good. And a lot of people could learn how to be nicer. Like not going after people on your social media feed when they have a different viewpoint or opinion.

Being nice is being polite and treating people well.

But being kind? That’s more about showing you care. It’s about action. Gesture. Effort. Values.

Being a kinder person entails doing good deeds and acting with thoughtfulness. It’s about thinking of others and how you can be helpful or of service.

Being Kind Vs. Being Nice

I’m not proud of it, but there were times in my youth when I was “nice” by not participating in mean behavior. And there were even times when I went along with the crown and did engage in mean behavior.

Looking back, I realize that was more about my lacking sense of self and confidence than it was about the other kids. I’m ashamed of it. and that’s why I work to instill self-awereness, confidence and knidness in my own daugther.

I want her to do better than I did.

These are some examples I’ve used with my daughter to illustrate the difference between nice and kind:

  • You see a school mate being teased on the other side of the playground. It’s not someone you really know that well or hang out with. Being nice is not participating in that type of behavior, recognizing that behavior is wrong, and possibly smiling and talking to that student later on when you run into them. Being kind is standing up for the teased child, and telling the other kids that behavior is not acceptable. Being kind is inviting the student to spend the rest of the recess with you and your friends.
  • Your friend is having a rough day. Being nice is listening to what they have to say if they come to you to talk. Being kind is listening, letting them know you care, and providing encouragement. Maybe it’s pumping them up. Maybe you write them an encouraging note. Or you check in with them the next day to see if they are doing better.
  • Your neighbor is elderly and lives alone. Being nice is asking “how are you doing?” when you see them. Being kind is helping them with yard work, errands, or even just visiting with them and giving them some company.

Teaching Kids How to Be Kind

When I say “just be kind,” I realize it takes more than just preaching to teach it. I try to set a better example on a daily basis, thinking of simple ways I can show her how to incorporate kindness into daily life.

As a mom, I know my daughter is always watching, always learning. The concept of “just be kind” starts with me.

And it’s not always easy, because I’m human and I’m flawed and I mess up.

Sometimes, I’m in a hurry to get in and out of a store and I am more focused on getting to the check out line ahead of the person who is headed towards me and going to the same line. And I find myself speed walking to beat them there.

Just be kind. Let them go first.

Sometimes, I get angry if my take-out order is wrong and I totally want to call the restaurant and complain.

Just be kind. Everyone makes mistakes.

Sometimes, I’m too wrapped up in my own world to stop and check in on a friend that’s been struggling. And I want to, but I feel angst because I am trying to do so many things and feel pressed for time.

Just be kind. Your friend needs to hear from you.

How to Be a Kinder Person

When my daughter and I about how to be kind, we talk about little things we can do, the action we can take, to show kindness towards others.

Here are some small Acts of Kindness you can do with your child to get started with intentional kindness towards others:

  1. Hold a door open for someone; let them go before you.
  2. Smile. You never know how much someone might need a kind smile and acknowledgment.
  3. Share a snack with a friend or school mate.
  4. Give someone a genuine compliment.
  5. Volunteer to help a neighbor walking a dog, weed a flowerbed, mow their lawn or run errands.
  6. Help raise money for a local cause or for a person that is facing a financial setback.
  7. Create artwork for a friend or family member.
  8. Send a thoughtful note, card or even text message.
  9. Pick up trash and litter around your neighborhood.
  10. Donate toys and clothes you don’t use anymore.
  11. Commit to showing kindness at school. This article has some great ideas.

Just Be Kind

In today’s world, kindness can sometimes be an afterthought. But teaching our kids how to be kind can go a long way towards healing and helping others.

Remember that teaching your kids about kindness not only includes being kind to others but being kind to yourself.

It’s hard to show kindness to others when you aren’t in a good place with yourself. And being in a good place with yourself starts with self-kindness and self-care.

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