“Kindness is contagious.” That was the theme at my kindergartener, Henry’s, elementary school this year. To get the kids excited, they kicked things off with a book called “Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed.” In the story, Mary’s small random act of kindness inspires others to pay it forward.
Motivated by the book, I planned random acts of kindness assuming my son would be excited to help. Yet he didn’t show much interest in my ideas. Where was I going wrong?
Yesterday, I put lessons of kindness in the backseat for a moment to focus on teaching my son to swim. As I confidently handed him his goggles, he proclaimed he remembered nothing from his swim lessons last year and would not be putting his face in the water. I knew he could swim, and I knew he would love it if he tried. But I also realized this had to be his idea and the motivation had to come from within. So, I stopped pushing.
Five minutes before it was time to leave, he suddenly held his breath and swam halfway across the shallow end. He popped up and exclaimed, “Hey, I can swim! I did know how to do it!” I couldn’t make him swim. He had to decide he wanted to do it. But what I did realize is that I provided the opportunity and the encouraging support he needed to try. When I planned those random acts of kindness, I wasn’t providing opportunity and encouragement; I was telling my son how I wanted him to help others and, to him, it felt like work.
Boost kids’ desire to help others
Kids have an innate desire to be kind and to help others. And at Kids Boost, we believe wholeheartedly that, with the appropriate support and opportunity, kids can make a HUGE impact. But we also believe that our expectations of kids should be developmentally appropriate. Kids should be able to use what they love to show kindness in ways that matter to them, and as adults, we should be their champions.
As I watched my son more closely this weekend, I noticed him offer to open his sister’s snack, let his dad go first in a game, and draw a picture for his grandmother’s refrigerator. Because my focus had shifted to encouraging kind behaviors instead of dictating how my son showed kindness, he was free to discover the joy of spreading kindness in his own way. We can spark kids’ interest in sharing kindness—not by pushing them to follow our ideas, but by providing opportunities for them to come up with their own. Ready to help ignite your kids’ own desire to show kindness? We’ve put together a list of suggestions to get you started!
Ways to help your kids catch the kindness bug this summer
• Take away the intimidation factor by explaining that an act of kindness can be as simple as calling a grandparent, giving a sibling a hug, or holding the door for a stranger
• Model kind behaviors in everyday moments, like bringing a newspaper to a neighbor’s porch
• Acknowledge the teenage desire for independence by offering opportunities for added responsibility. For older teens, this could be using the car for something helpful (like running errands for a neighbor) or coming up with services to offer neighbors free of charge
• Add a fun factor like letting kids host a sleepover while creating kindness calendars to complete with their friends during the summer months
• Ask your kids what makes their hearts happy! Then, help them connect the dots from what makes them happy to how they can use those interests to spread happiness to others.
• Praise younger children for kind acts they show in their everyday play. Remember, younger children are still egocentric and may not show interest in helping strangers or participating in adult-led activities.
• Use errands and already-planned summer activities as springboards for random acts of kindness. For example, kids can create positive notes or drawings to leave for cashiers and waiters or be put in charge of planning a random act of kindness the family can carry out on vacation.
Remember, kindness IS contagious. Even if your kids don’t immediately take to the idea, eventually, I bet they’ll catch the bug!
Blog Written by Kate Bellamy, Mom and Kids Boost Coach