Teaching kids to be kind? That’s one of the hardest things we have to do as parents.
That’s because teaching kindness isn’t a simple three-step lesson plan that fits every kid. Teaching kids kindness is messy, unexpected, and requires that we, ahem, show kindness ourselves.
It also doesn’t help that unkind words seem to jump out of nowhere at the most inconvenient moments. As imperfect family members living in close quarters, we tend to bring out the worst in each other, don’t we?
Teaching kids about kindness is an ongoing lesson that requires intentionality and ongoing grace.
Therefore, we need ongoing, adjustable strategies (I’ve got four ideas below!) that build the habit of kindness in a child’s character.
4 Strategies that Teach Kids to Show Kindness
1) Treat Them With Kindness (Especially When They Don’t Deserve It)
I put the hardest thing first, ladies.
Oh Lord, give me the grace to shut my mouth and be kind when my kids are driving me crazy!
Laugh if you will, but that’s seriously something I pray all day long. Because my kids have the tendency to make me angry and grouchy like no one else.
And yet, the key to teaching our kids kindness is found in our response to those moments.
Trust me, I wish it were different. I’ve asked God (on multiple occasions) for permission to be angry and rude to my kids when they’re not being kind (please, Lord? maybe this time?). And each time He gently reminds me that there might be a better approach to teaching kindness.
Over and over, He’s shown me that responding with a lowered tone and a calm, grace-filled spirit can go a long way. (Proverbs 15:1, Proverbs 30:33)
Now I didn’t say this was easy! And I certainly will not say I’ve got it mastered.
But yes, I can testify that progress can be made! When we lean on God’s power (and choose to be obedient to His truth despite our own feelings), we can learn the habit of responding in kindness.
2) Talk To Your Kids About Kindness
Maybe this sounds obvious, but talking about kindness (repeatedly, as related to all kinds of situations) makes a world of difference when teaching kids about kindness.
God gives us opportunities—all the time—to treat others with kindness or not:
- How do we handle that person who is driving too slowly in front of us?
- What do we say to that mom who arrives late (again) to sports practice?
- How do we speak about a family member (who treated us rudely) when we are no longer in that person’s presence?
The list goes on and on, right? We have the opportunity to not only demonstrate humility and kindness in these situations but to engage our kids in conversation about the situation itself.
But even though we’re striving to lead by example, we don’t have to live in fear that if we don’t live a perfectly kind life our kids will miss the message.
That’s because even when we mess up and don’t respond with the right heart, we can talk to our kids about better ways we could have responded in that difficult situation.
We can engage our kids in discussion with questions like:
—In what ways did my response not show kindness?
—Do you think the situation justified my anger and unkind actions?
—Even if the unkindness can be justified, how do you think God would have wanted me to handle these emotions in a healthy way that didn’t hurt others?
Yes, God can still use our responses to everyday situations—whether they are always kind or not—to still teach our kids about being kind. Now that is amazing grace, right?
3) Encourage Kindness In Action
There comes a point when we must give our kids the opportunity to transfer knowledge into action. Knowledge without action is meaningless (James 1:22-25, James 2:20, 26).
Opportunities for everyday kindness abound, especially in a busy family! Our homes are a training ground for how to respond in kindness during difficult situations.
One easy way to do this? We must learn to give each other margin for our mistakes. In Ephesians 4:2, the Bible urges us to “make allowances for each other’s faults because of (our) love.” In a few simple words, this Bible verse communicates many profound truths including: People are not going to act perfectly, and we are to still treat them with kindness because of Christ’s example of how to love others.
Sounds simple but hard to live out, right? That’s why we’re given so many opportunities to practice kindness everyday (especially within our own family).
After I’ve had to correct a child and encourage him or her toward kindness, my family has heard me say many times, “Be on the lookout because God will give you another opportunity (probably today!) for you to practice kindness to someone else when they didn’t deserve it.”
God is so good to give us chances over and over again to practice the habit of kindness!
4) Take a Random Acts of Kindness Challenge
One excellent way to teach kids about kindness is to take a dedicated time to practice this habit by participating in an acts of kindness challenge.
Your Vibrant Family is hosting a 30 Day Acts of Kindness Challenge all this month—complete with ideas, discussion starters, Bible verses and more! Go here to follow along (there’s a new theme in the challenge each week) and to learn more.
We’d love for you to join in and to practice kindness in action not only to your immediate family but kindness to strangers and kindness to our world!
Additional Resources on Teaching Kids to Be Kind
Do you kids struggle with being kind? Have you ever participated in a random acts of kindness challenge? How do you teach your kids to be kind?
This post contributed by Alicia from Your Vibrant Family