If I had to decide on the most important life skill I try to instill in the children I care for, I would say it is kindness. Hands down. Like many caregivers, the day I realized that I was going to be largely responsible for helping lay the foundation of who Little A would be one day, I was overcome with sheer panic. I couldn’t screw this up! I couldn’t be the one to blame for the bully in the sandbox! Or even worse, the future bully in the boardroom!
Years ago, before Little A could barely speak, I remember he grabbed his baby doll by the leg, spun her around and catapulted her clear across the room. I immediately picked up the doll, coddled her in my arms asking if she was okay. I passed her back to Little A, reminding him that was not nice. With sadness in his eyes, he took the doll into his arms and mimicked my behavior, gently kissing her forehead. He never threw her again.
Over the last few years I’ve continued to encourage these subtle actions, in hopes that it becomes so ingrained in his brain that he will continue this type of kind behavior long after I am no longer his nanny. When a friend falls on the playground, I remind Little A to go over, offer a hug and ask if his friend is okay. When we see a homeless person on the train, I will ask him to look through his backpack for a snack he can share, or hand him the loose change in my pocket for him to pass along. I have banned ugly words like, “shut-up”, “stupid”, and my all time LEAST favorite, “you can’t play with us!”.
Now that Little A is at an age where he can really grasp the concept, I felt he was ready for his first organized volunteering experience. So this past Monday, in honor of MLK Day, we took advantage of the day off from school and decided to volunteer for Repair the World. We joined dozens of other preschoolers in a gymnasium of a school to make get-well-soon cards for the patients at a hospital near by. Before they began, the event organizer spoke to the children about who the cards were for. “Your cards will be given to people who are feeling sad or sick. Your cards will help make them feel better!” For the next hour I watched as little hands poured so much love into these cards, holding up the finished product with gleeful smiles across their faces. The end result was a large cardboard box filled with scribbles, hearts, stick figures, paper snowflakes, wobbly signatures, but most importantly KINDNESS! It was such a lovely experience that I decided to compose a list of a few fun ways to incorporate more of this kind of “caring” into our lives.
5 Activities to Help Raise A Kind Kid
- Make cards and hand deliver them to the residents at your local nursing home or VA hospital. It is often very difficult for patients to be away from their families and the type of happiness only a child can bring is undeniable. And you don’t have to be part of an organized event, like we were, to do so.
- Let’s not forget our furry friends! Spend the afternoon at your local animal shelter! You can walk dogs, give some much needed love to the cats, clean cages, fold pamphlets, staple papers….the list is never ending!
- Start a “Pay it Forward’’ jar, filling it with loose change. Once full, decide as a family where to donate the money.
- Encourage children to go through their old clothes and toys to donate to kids who are less fortunate. Since children often have a hard time parting with their belongings, this can be a bit difficult at first, so start slowly. Encourage them to pick these items out themselves and if its only one old pair of pajamas or a book they are no longer interested in, that’s okay! What matters most is you are teaching them the importance of helping others!
- And most importantly, lead by example! Children are products of their environment. It’s the small, everyday acts, like holding the door open for someone or helping an elderly neighbor carry groceries in, which will truly teach children how to be kinder in this world!