Balancing swim bags and wet towels, we slowly weave down the sidewalk to the car. Scanning our group as we inch closer, my heart sinks. Someone’s missing. Our kindergartener was here moments before, now he’s nowhere to be seen.
Breathing to stay calm, we quickly turn around and walk back to the building. My mind races:
Did he run in for something he forgot? Did he see someone he knew?
Then we see him, holding the door open for an elderly lady to enter with her walker. Stopping in our tracks, I catch his eyes and raise my eyebrows. He shoots me a grin as he waits patiently for the lady to pass, then runs inside to open the second set of doors for her.
Once she’s safely inside, he runs back outside to me. “I’m sorry, Mama. I saw her walking up the sidewalk alone and I wanted to help.”
Does Kindness Really Matter?
When asked why we choose to homeschool, the chance to open doors for elderly ladies with walkers is high on the list. In our hurried culture, it’s easier to focus on where we’re going than notice the people we pass along the way.
Homeschool gives us time to notice, so we can help when possible.
(Although we need to ask permission first, as I reminded our son.)
Noticing and assisting others can help grow kinder kids who mature into kinder adults. This isn’t just good for the world – it’s good for our kids. Being kind can actually affect how their brains develop!
“One reason kindness is good for relationships is that kind people are more empathic. Duke University professor Scott Huettel found that more selfless people have more activity in the posterior superior temporal cortex, the part of the brain associated with taking someone else’s perspective and understanding their actions. Those skills are key in relationships, where feeling seen and understood is part of the glue holding people together.” –positivepsychlopedia.com
This empathy enhances our families and benefits kids as they grow up. Helping them to be more thoughtful spouses, dedicated employees, invested parents.
And more likely to hold doors open for people.
How do we encourage kindness in our kids? Through habits.
6 Easy Habits to Promote Kindness
Serve Others Before Yourself: When my husband and I lived in China, it was bad manners to pour tea for yourself before offering to others first. If you’re ready for refills than others probably are as well. This builds awareness of others and consideration skills.
Put it in practice: Fix a family snack together, making sure everyone else is served first. When you need a refill, ask if you can get more for anyone else as well.
Write Thank-you Cards: Sending thank-you’s benefits the sender too. Showing gratitude helps us relive the happiness of receiving something and cement that positive experience in our brain. It also builds relationships.
Put it in practice: Write a card to your child thanking them for something. Leaving it in an unexpected place (in the middle of a book they’re reading, under a pillow) is a fun surprise.
Focus on the Positive: You’re running late (again). Someone cuts you off in traffic. The bottom falls out of your grocery bag. Days are filled with annoyances and our kids are watching us to see how we handle them. Putting a positive spin on something – or turning it into a learning experience – equips our kids to do the same.
Put it in practice: When something goes wrong, ask your kids what changes might help. Write down what they say and put it into action. This builds problem-solving skills for kids and confidence, too.
Make Time for Games: Even a quick game of Qwixx can help kids learn to take turns, see something through, and lose gracefully. Equipping them with steadfastness and resiliency for when they’re older.
Put it into practice: Start when they’re young! Cooperation games are highly recommended because they encourage working together. Our favorites: Haba First Orchard (toddler/preschooler), Outfoxed! (elementary), Pandemic (older kids)
Read About Kind People: There’s nothing like a good example to inspire imitation. The Who Was? books are great for multi-age classrooms and include a diverse collection of people who helped change the world around them.
Put it into practice: Read together and discuss what lessons they learned in their life. How can we use that lesson too? Right now we’re also loving Paths to Peace, which includes sixteen peacemaker biographies and gorgeous artwork.
Nature Appreciation: Sharing the outdoors together builds strong bodies and gives kids a greater understanding of the world around them. It also makes them more sensitive to protecting it in the future. Make time to slow down and examine what interests them – this helps build kids’ interest and attention spans.
Put it into practice: Take along a plastic bag to collect trash (gloves optional) or make birdseed ornaments to leave behind. Continue the adventure at home with these 25 Nature Stories You Need to Read to Your Active Kid.