"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.
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.
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.