“Be kind to each other!”
“Are you being kind?!”
“Make sure you choose kindness with each other!!”
I think I say those words to my kids, or very similar combinations of those words, somewhere in the ballpark of forty thousand times per day. I think the reason I have to remind my kids so often to act kindly to one another is because they are so prone to the opposite of kindness. Really, we all are.
Colossians 3:12 exhorts us to “put on kindness”. To “put on” commands an action. We have to “put on” our shoes before we leave. Our shoes don’t somehow magically make it to our feet once we arrive at our destination (yes, I’m talking to you, my son wearing socks in the grocery store). Similarly, we have to “put on” kindness because it is not something our sinful selves are naturally bent on doing.
So how can we help our kids to put on kindness everyday? Here are just a few things I have tried to intentionally implement in our home to make kindness a reality.
1. Have them model kindness to others.
If my daughter comes in the kitchen and asks me for a snack, I try and encourage her to bring one to her brother too. If my son runs in from outside to grab a juice from the fridge, I ask him to grab one for his sister too. Planting these little seeds of habitual kindness will hopefully enable them to act out of kindness on their own will in the future.
2. Recognize when they have displayed kindness.
After my child does something kind for another, I try to recognize it and give them a verbal compliment, even if it’s something I suggested they do (see number one).
“Remember when you brought your sister juice? That was really kind of you.”
“Remember when you chose to share your candy with your brother? That was a really nice thing to do.”
Pointing out my child’s good deeds serves as positive reinforcement for their good behavior, and also helps them further recognize what kind behavior looks like.
3. Use the right words.
I try to be very specific when describing my child’s kind behavior. I definitely use the word “kind” most often, but I think there are words that describe sub-kindness that can be useful as well. Words like generous, loving, gracious – these can fall under the blanket category of kindness, but the nuances of recognizing each one can widen the scope of what my children see as kind behavior.
4. Use Scripture.
God’s word never returns void and I believe that even applies to using scripture to teach little hearts how to be kind. When admonishing my kids to be kind I usually back myself up with a reminder from God’s holy word.
“Be kind to one another …” Ephesians 4:32
“Be devoted to one another in love; honor one another above yourself.” Romans 12:10
“Do not let kindness leave you …” Proverbs 3:3
Speaking Scripture into the lives of our kids is a powerful tool we have in overcoming selfishness and promoting kindness.
5. Encourage them to see the situation from the perspective of another.
This is huge. Kids are naturally egocentric and are not naturally inclined to think of how their actions affect others. Explaining to them that their actions do indeed affect others can really help them choose kindness.
If my daughter hits her brother or says something unkind I remove her from the situation and ask her, “Was that kind? How would you feel if your brother hit/spoke unkindly/snatched a toy from you?” If she has trouble coming up with an answer (which she often does in an attempt to avoid correction), I help her out. “That would make him feel sad/angry/upset. We should never want to make anyone feel that way. That would not be kind.”
The dialogue is virtually the same every time and sometimes she responds well and sometimes she doesn’t. But again, sowing the seeds of kind behavior into their hearts will allow them to one day reap this good behavior on their own.
6. Show kindness to them.
This is probably, by far, the most important one. It would be really difficult to expect my children to be kind to each other if I wasn’t showing kindness to them myself. They say actions speak louder than words and in the case of teaching your kids kindness through example, this is most certainly the case.
One thing that brings me such joy is to see my kids speaking life-giving words and phrases to each other that I know I’ve intentionally tried to speak to them. On the flip side, nothing pains me more than to see them acting out of frustration and anger towards each other in the same way they’ve seen me act toward them. Be the kindness you want to see in your kids, even when it feels hard.
Kindness is not easy to come by naturally. We have to purposefully put on this fruit and display it to a world that hungers for it. Let’s be parents who help their kids put on kindness daily and draw others to Jesus because of it.
Keep learning about kindness with the shows on Minno! Explore these episodes about kindness with your kids today: