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How to teach your children to be kind

kelli Moore 1Kelli N. Moore of Atlanta felt she needed to hear more positive stories, more examples of kindness. So she decided to start a blog in 2012 to share stories and advice on how to encourage people to be kind, and also to have discussions about what does it really mean to be a kind person. Her blog’s mantra is “be kind, even when it’s really hard.”

This resonated with me. I wanted to share her thoughts and tips on ways to nurture kindness and I would love to hear stories about your family’s act of kindness and ways you encourage this.

(holiviero@ajc.com)

Here are some ways Kelli, a 42-year-old teacher by training and active volunteer recommends fostering kindness. Here are some tips from Kelli prepared for the AJC parenting blog (for more tips, thoughts and discussion on kindness, go to Kelli’s web sitewww.innovationsinkindness.com

Parents Maintaining Friendships

Are you a busy parent who is falling out of balance with friends?  It is always easy to pass off work or time at home as a reason to not engage with friends.  But at the end of the day, friends are good for us and provide camaraderie, support, entertainment, and love, qualities that we needn’t justify, but we do need to act to maintain these relationships too.  If you are one of those parents who finds themselves hyper-indulged in work and family and less involved with friends who are beginning to seek strike you off the coffee or dinner party list, here are some tips for you:

1) Set a reminder in your calendar for texts.

Many people use their phones and eCalendars to schedule events.  Why not set a reminder to send a quick text to a friend?  Reaching out in this way takes less than five minutes.

2) Set a date in your calendar for cards.

The next time you are out shopping pick up some stationary.  Choose one or two friends that you want to keep a strong relationship with.  Pre-address and stamp an envelope when you have a minute.  Set a reminder for yourself to write a quick note and to mail the card on the first day of spring? On an anniversary? On the first day of the month? While waiting for junior to finish soccer practice? It’s up to you. This is a great way to show you care for a friend.

3) Make a date and be present.

Make a date for a meal or an activity. Before arriving to your date with your friend, take a breath.  Be present.  Set an intention to listen and focus on your friend.  This time is for the two of you, let the other things wait for later.

Empathy and Caring for Others

One of the great moments I’ve had interviewing people was when one of the interviewees broke the mold and said something different.  I commonly ask people what it means to be kind and invariably someone will recite or refer to the Golden Rule, which is found in many religious texts.  We should do unto others what you would have them do unto you.  This interviewee modified that suggesting the Platinum Rule.  We should meet the needs of others. Treat others the way they want to be treated.  This is an important distinction.  Both sensibilities need to be considered when we think about caring for others who are ill or experiencing a hard time.

Teaching kids how to support others is a good thing made better by the fact that many kids want to help. Here are a few good tips in teaching kids to support someone in need:

1.     Teach empathy.  Kids are really good at thinking about how it might feel to be someone else. This is a great conversation to have when you learn that someone you know is not well.  How do you think it might feel? How would our friend feel if we dropped by for a visit?

2.     What does the person need?  Model for your child what an open conversation with a person in need is like. Make a list of the things that the person needs (based on your conversation).  Some needs are emotional (hugs or a visit) others are logistical (a ride, a meal, an errand).  What can you provide?  How can your child contribute?

3.     Finally, reiterate that while we want perfection in our children’s lives, at some point everyone will experience a hard time.  We should all be a little kinder on ourselves about needing help, asking for help, remembering that at some point we all need a little support.

Use your powers for good.  Helping out friends and neighbors.

Helping friends and neighbors with a variety of tasks can warm your heart as the giver and indeed warm the heart of the person or people you are helping. Kids are great helpers and are developing and honing new skills every day.  Why should junior help someone out?  Here are three great reasons:

-Your child’s skills will improve

-Your child will learn about working in different settings

-Your child will make a better friend or a new connection in the community

Helping others is life long. Take some time this summer to figure out with your child what kinds of things they can do or help with.  Is it organizing? Painting? Software tutorial? Gardening or lawn care?  Taking care of people? It’s always a great time to be kind and connected to the folks in your community.

 

Open To New Foods and People

Is your child a gracious guest in all settings? Is your child able to share different or unusual foods with others? Encourage your child to be (positively) curious and interested in different foods and cultures. Being welcoming and accepting of other people-even if they are different-is the cornerstone of kindness.  Here are a few things to think about to increase your child’s flexibility and openness to diverse people and settings right here at home:

1.   Encourage your child to try different foods when they are out with friends or sleeping over at a friend’s house. Ask what they liked about the new experiences when they return.

2.   Coach them on how to be gracious even when they come across a food that is not their favorite, recognizing that one way to handle it IS to eat something politely and not necessarily enjoy it.

3.     Make friends with people who look, speak, worship, and cook differently than you do… this is what it’s all about!

Find more monthly kindness challenges at

http://www.innovationsinkindness.com


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