Image By Brandy Jemczura
By Sarah Jackson, Contributing Writer
“What do you hope for your kids to be when they grow up?” I remember this specific question in my Facebook news feed as I scrolled through and a quiz of sorts caught my eye.
I had one child sleeping draped across my lap and another passed out in (my) bed- a rare quiet moment to myself to ponder this question. My kids were so young; how could I possibly know what I hoped for them to be? But, it actually wasn’t a hard question to answer at all. I hope they will be empathetic, loving, confident, ambitious, courageous and happy!
I’m sure the multiple-choice answers expected for this type of quiz would have read doctor, lawyer, teacher, engineer, etc., but I know with strong and admirable character traits my boys will find their way. Luckily for my kids, I have a powerhouse of a “village” to guide me through this crazy parenting journey!
As heart-shaped sugar cubes and pink and red cards are being passed around day-cares and schools this month, I’m wondering how I can foster a sense of caring, love and compassion in my kids that I want so badly for them. Surely traditional valentine’s paraphernalia will help guide them in the right direction! No? Receiving a kind and thoughtful note from someone is priceless, but I’m skeptical that the thirty Mickey Mouse and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cards that are passed to each child on Valentines Day is really having that effect.
That’s just it- I don’t want my children to learn how to show compassion and kindness on Valentines Day or any given day, really. I hope for my children to have compassion and kindness in their hearts, so when they interact with their peers and community members they do so from a place of kindness and compassion. How can you and I as parents help our children to grow in this capacity?
As I’ve previously said, I have some strong women in my life who help guide me through parenthood! One of these ladies introduced me Carol McCloud’s book Have You Filled a Bucket Today? This book has helped open up a dialog with my children and I about how and why we should spread compassion and kindness each day. The author describes an invisible bucket that each person carries around with them. This bucket is filled by acts of love and emptied when they are treated poorly.
Perhaps as we prepare for classroom parties and search for the perfect cards to pass out this Valentines Day we can take a step back and think about what showing love in our families and in our community really means. Our children have the ability to make others feel good. When they show kindness and compassion towards someone, not only does it make that person feel good, it makes your child feel good as well. After time, purposefully showing love and kindness will become habitual and build admirable character traits. Their kindness will have a ripple effect.
At the end of the day, we go back to the analogy from McCloud’s book. As we talk about our days, I love to hear how my son has purposefully “filled someone else’s bucket”. It’s clear that his bucket has been filled in the process as a big smile lights his face!
7 Acts of Kindness for Kids: How to Teach Compassion and Kindness
1. Help a Neighbor:
Rake leaves or shovel snow for a neighbor who is not able to do this work for himself! What a fun way to show someone you care!
2. Call a Family Member Just to Tell Them That You Love Them:
What cousin, grandparent or sibling doesn’t love a random phone call just to hear those 3 sweet words? If you are feeling it, say it!
3. Say “Thank You:”
There are many people who work very hard to make our lives easier. Write a note to your mailman, decorate the trash-can with a big thank you message, write a note to your teacher, or simply say “thank you” to community members whose work affects your life each day.
4. Beautify your Community:
Pick up trash in the park or plant some flowers in the cul-de-sac to make someone else smile from your hard work.
It’s simple, but often overlooked. Extend a friendly smile and “hello” to people you pass in the street and family alike.
6. Use Kind Words:
When you talk to your friends, parents, teachers, anyone- kind words can be the difference between dipping into someone’s bucket and filling someone’s bucket when there is a difference of opinion.
7. Help a Younger Child:
Read a book to a young child or teach them a new game.
It’s on me to be a good role model for my children, so I am also purposefully “filling buckets” each day. Prior to becoming a parent I had no idea how much my children would teach me! I am loving how they help me grow to become a more kind and compassionate individual.
What Are Some Acts of Kindness You and Your Kids Can Do in Your Community?
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