Sneak peek: Encouraging kindness in children is a topic many of us worry about in our world today. Advice and tips from a mom and entrepreneur.
I’m excited to feature a guest post from Jana Hallam, the founder of Wonderwell Toy Company. Her company designs a line of purpose-led toys that develop imagination, curiosity and mindfulness in children. She’s sharing her ideas and tips for helping foster kindness in children.
Did you know that bullying occurs once every 7 minutes on the playground and 1 out of 5 children report they are bullied? How can we ensure our children can handle these difficult situations for themselves and advocate for others?
When children have a strong sense of empathy and compassion, they are better able to build strong relationships and connections. With this, comes a sense of security and worthiness for our children. When our children experience empathy, they become more tolerant and accepting of others, which in turn promotes good mental health.
As an anxious mom, I was so worried about raising kids in an unkind world. To me, it was obvious that kindness and empathy were important concepts I wanted to teach my twins, but the bigger question was… how? How could I do it in a way that felt fun and not preachy?
I started with the insight and belief that children are born kind and good. Instead of being a teacher of kindness, I began to see my role as more of a facilitator. It became my mission to help my girls discover the inherent kindness they already held within.
I believe that kindness, gratitude, and authenticity enable children to feel happier and more connected. This then leads to a greater sense of belonging and self-worth. Isn’t that what we are all seeking?
To celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day on February 17th, I’ve put together a short list for parents looking to inspire and nurture good values through simple activities. Of course, kindness is an evergreen tradition that can be practiced and focused on all year long. My goal is to help parents connect with their children and bring out the best in the next generation.
Ideas for Encouraging Kindness in Children
Have conversations about kindness
Create a two-way dialogue with your child around themes of kindness. Can you spot someone doing an act of kindness when you are out together? Maybe it’s the grocer helping load the groceries, or someone holding the door open for another person. Maybe it’s someone simply smiling and saying hello on the street.
Ask your child what they noticed. How do they think that act made the other person feel? Get them looking for acts of kindness themselves to share with you. I am always surprised by how perceptive and aware my children are. Make sure to include them in the conversation and encourage their thoughts and ideas, even if the answers aren’t ‘traditionally right’. It’s about thinking and talking kindness right now, it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, my daughter told me I was kind the other day when I gave her an extra serving of dessert… maybe not quite what I had in mind, but she’s using the language and that’s what matters.
Engage in acts of kindness together
This is a step further than modeling kindness (which is also important, but I am assuming you are already doing this!). As a family, decide how you want to help others on a particular day, or during a particular time frame. Is there a local shelter that needs volunteers? Is there a food drive happening at a nearby food bank? Would it feel good to deliver handmade valentines to the elderly at a senior’s home? Find what works for you. Again, acts of kindness can be grand gestures or small, simple acts. What is important is the feeling behind them. Allow your child a chance to experience being kind and discuss how it made them feel.
If they have an idea – no matter how it may differ from yours – go with that. Maybe it’s handing out silly pictures to friends, maybe it’s sharing a favorite toy with their sibling. When we allow them to lead, there’s an incredible sense of ownership and empowerment that comes with that.
Discover kindness through play
I designed this thoughtful toy to inspire compassion through a series of playful adventures. The Kindness Mouse activity set begins with the story of a mouse looking for a sense of belonging- and continues off the page with an adorable plush toy that can be moved throughout the house to facilitate a series of playful adventures and mindful cues from a deck of activity cards.
The idea here is to create moments to connect and have meaningful conversations around themes of kindness, inclusion and empathy which are prompted through the activity cards. They can be done daily, weekly or even monthly basis – depending on what works for you and your family.
Messages of love and caring
I love doing little ‘day brighteners’ with my children. We will write letters, draw pictures, or send a message or text to spread cheer to someone we love. They can even do it for themselves- sometimes all it takes is a sticky note on the mirror to serve as a reminder of our own greatness!
This works well because, like the earlier suggestion, your child can lead. If they are a little younger, they can draw pictures or tell you what to write on a card. If they are older, they may want to write a letter or film themselves making a video, etc. on their own.
Remember, no matter how you approach it, focus on helping your child discover what kindness feels like for them. As they build compassion and empathy, their sense of security and self-worth will grow. Together, as parents, we can help our children thrive in a challenging world.