5 Tips for Fostering Kindness

Kindness is something we should be living out ourselves and teaching the younger generation all year long.  But I think we can use holidays as a platform to really emphasize the importance.  It’s already being discussed in one way or another so why not capitalize on that?

My 4 year old daughter, Lily, has a precious heart.  She prays for our Compassion Child and wants to send her dress up clothes.  At dinner, she prays that kids would have houses, good food, and everything they need.  It warms my heart.

And then she has this “gimme” side that comes out, where she thinks that if she wants something we can just go to the store and buy it . . . today.

I’ve been very intentional about trying to foster a thankful and kind spirit especially in her so we can work on this now, rather than when she’s 13 asking for the iPhone 20, claiming she needs it or will die.  And I have seen progress for sure.

So here are some ideas that we have either lived out ourselves or I found recently and will be trying out.  Hopefully this helps you (as a single, a couple, or a family–the ideas are not limited to doing with kids!) as you dive into this season of giving and thankfulness.

 

5 Tips for Fostering Kindness

  1. Sponsor a child through Compassion.  I highly recommend this if you have kids but would urge anyone to if they can make it work financially.  At the time of this post, it costs $38 a month to sponsor a child and you can choose to send gifts/money throughout the year on top of that.  This has been huge for my kids and can be really impactful the more you involve your family, rather than just simply sending money.  If you don’t have kids, it’s a wonderful way to reach a part of the world you otherwise may not, as well as be more aware of what’s going on in other countries.If you can’t sponsor a child due to financial limitations, simply talk with your kids about the differences between how they live and how some other kids live throughout the world.  Just be careful not to instill a superiority/savior complex as you do this (“I have money, they don’t; I’m going to fix their problems.”).

    Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, MSG)

  2. Emphasize thanksgiving.  There is a useful acronym for helping to focus our prayers called ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication).  I try really hard to focus on thanksgiving at this time in my kids’ lives when praying out loud with them (all of those components are included but we spend the most time on T).  My kids barely ever pray for God to give them something.  I don’t remember them ever doing that.  They pray for Sristy, our Compassion child, for kids to have clean water, and for kids to have big houses (we’re working on the “big” part haha).  They thank God for the food they have, their toys, and each other.  They ask for family to feel better if they’re sick.  But as of now, they haven’t asked for anything from God for themselves.  And I figure if we can instill that at age 4, maybe it’ll stick.  Another way to encourage giving thanks is to do something like this thanksgiving tree as a family.  Each evening at dinner (or each morning at breakfast), each child can choose something they are thankful for, write it (with help if needed), and glue it to the tree.  I also know a family who has a journal in the kitchen and each day, every member of the family writes one thing they are thankful for that day.  It’d be a nice keepsake too!  Lastly, maybe create your own gratitude list, as modeled by Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts.  I started one here on the blog.  You could use a journal, your own blog, or something else creative.  Try to verbalize what you’re thankful for, even in trying circumstances, so others around you see and hear it.
  3. Bring kindness into Christmas (and maybe all year round) with a toy friend.  Most of you have probably heard of the Elf on a Shelf.  My mom got that for my kids a couple years ago and we weren’t sure how we felt about it, but we told her we’d try it anyway.  We haven’t used it as a way to motivate our kids to behave better at Christmas, as it doesn’t line up with how we parent.  But we would hide Elfie in different ways and the kids liked that.  Now this year, we’re going to try the Kindness Elves idea (just came across it and am super psyched).  Basically, you use an elf (or whatever you want) and have the elf suggest kind things to do each day.  There’s a whole list of ideas and even a Facebook page so you can ideas from others.  And I just may do this all year round.
  4. Make random acts of kindness (RAK) a regular part of your life.  This can be combined with #3 too (double whammy, my friends!).  I have a Pinterest board full of RAK ideas to get you (and me) started.  Commit to doing one RAK each month.  Then increase it to each week.  Not everything has to cost money either.  This post from My Life and Kids has one of the best lists I’ve seen (and while they say they’re to do with kids, you don’t have to have kids to do them by any means).
  5. Be helpful.  Yep, it’s an easy one folks.  I’m speaking mostly to the parents of little ones on this one (but adjust accordingly for your kids’ ages).  If you’re helpful, your kids will see that and we know that modeling is one of the most influential ways kids learn and do themselves.  Don’t do everything for your kids but every so often, do something they’d normally have to (like clean up the toys or put away clothes).  Do it just randomly enough that they’ll know not to expect it but will be thankful you did it.  Also, ask your kids to help wherever they can, whether with their siblings (if one is struggling and needs help getting dressed, doing a puzzle, etc.) or with whatever you’re doing.  With meals, they can help prepare the meal (even if it’s minimal), set the table, wipe it down after it’s cleared, or load the dishwasher.  If you’re cleaning, find a way for them to be involved (sweeping dirt onto the dustpan, pushing the vacuum while you’re holding it, or spraying cleaner (side note: Honest Company products are great as well as Branch Basics if you’re concerned about letting your kids get their hands on cleaners).  If you’re helping someone else, include them (let them help make the meal for someone, make a get well card, carry someone’s bag, open a door).

There are lots of other ideas to make sure our hearts have an outward focus rather than an inward focus but hopefully these will help get us all started.

Is there anything you’d add to this list?

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