When I think about the people whom I consider heroes, there are three that immediately come to mind: Mother Theresa, Princess Diana and Oprah. What do they have in common? Well, they’re definitely all global change agents. The bigger similarity for me is much simpler: they’re all kind. Kindness is such a virtue and essential part of having values to me. As a mom, I want to instill that in my boys. I hope that other parents are raising kids to be kind in their homes, also. Here’s why it is so important to me.
Why Kindness Matters
There are tons of scientific reasons why being kind matters. For me, they are far less complicated. Being kind just makes the world a better place. It promotes positivity in social interactions and relationships. That’s more important than anything my boys can learn inside a classroom. Kindness resonates beyond what can be attained in a book, in my personal parenting perspective. The women I mentioned above are change agents because of what they’ve done for society. More than that, these ladies all possess the power to impact people’s lives because of how they treat others.
That kind of influence creates positive paths of opportunity, and I want my children to be surrounded and filled by positivity throughout their lives. Plus, people are so much kinder to themselves when they are kinder to others. As my kids learn more about the world around them, I hope they learn just as much about themselves and how to interact well with people similar and dissimilar to themselves. Ultimately, I hope they learn and show through their actions that they have the power to make themselves and others feel good—and safe.
My family is a testament to the fact that raising kids to be kind isn’t as difficult as society’s actions make it seem to be. I have conversations with my boys regularly about treating each other and strangers nicely. We also discuss scenarios that focus on times when people don’t treat them well. I’ve had my fair share of instances with not-so-nice people, so my conversations with my children flow interdependently.
Along with regular talks with my sons, I set rules in our home that focus on kindness and generosity. When they go to the playground, I regularly suggest to them to look and see if anyone is being left out of playing. If they notice someone, I suggest one of them go and offer to play with them. If the kid says no, that’s okay. I want my boys to at least make the offer. I also require them to say “please” and “thank you,” both to me and each other. Those words show baseline respect in my opinion, and I want my kids to have that ingrained in their “mental manners” handbook.
To reinforce positivity, I also commit to not rewarding any bad behavior from my children. Having attitudes or tantrums and making general decisions not to be nice to anyone are punishable offenses in the Breegan Jane home. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. That’s one of my primary parenting tenets.
Kindness From Their Perspective
It’s one thing for me to work with my boys on being nice, but I also want them to work out those values between themselves. And they do—most times. One way this happens is through sharing. For instance, they now know they can only take toys and play with them in public if they offer to share them with other kids. Public spaces aren’t our home. However, they know the morals we have at home apply everywhere. I can tell they’ve caught on. I’ve seen them offer pool floats to other kids while they shared one between themselves. It made my heart leap inside.
Exposing my boys to animals has also helped them become more kind. They recently learned how to ride horses, and that’s helped them learn how to treat living beings well as a whole. It’s been a great way to show them how to value all lives. Now, Kingsley catches spiders around the house, but he doesn’t squash them. Instead, he takes them outside and sets them free. I see that translate to people when we ride through our city. My boys always want to get clothing or blankets for the people around town without homes. We don’t call them “homeless” in our family. They are people who do not have houses. This language doesn’t devalue people because of their circumstances. We help when and how we can, but I love the care and concern they now have for others. These are the roots of kindness I want to grow in my kids’ hearts.
In an ideal world, raising kids to be kind would be at the top of every parent’s agenda. Unfortunately, it’s not. For those parents who do value this belief, know that it’s not difficult to do. The first step is talking with your children about how they show kindness, or what they can do more to show it to others. Watch how your children react to others when kindness is being shown and not shown. Processing actions, even with other kids, can go a long way in teaching your kids what to do to be respectful of others. It can also alleviate negative interactions in the moment for everyone involved.
It’s also important to navigate with your children what to do when other people aren’t kind to them. My boys now know how to return kindness for meanness. However, they also know not to play victim to negative interactions, and to make people speak for themselves if others try to hurt them. They appreciate learning how to empower themselves.
Kindness makes our hearts feel good. It helps us regulate our emotions, and it fosters better interactions in our relationships. We should all want these positives in our lives. I know from experience that our children will be better kids—and adults, as they age—when they prioritize kindness. Raising our kids to be kind will only create a better society for their futures. I see absolutely no downsides to that—and that should make our hearts feel good, too.