As a preschool teacher for over 30 years, I know firsthand the importance of teaching children to be kind. By the time children are 5 years old, studies show that their values, their view of the world, of others, and themselves are formed. This is the age that is most crucial for developing an attitude of kindness towards others. It is the foundation that builds over the course of their life.
Watching children build a tower with blocks is a great way to picture this. If they build a solid foundation at the beginning, then everything else added to it will stand. Likewise, having a shaky foundation and strengthening the tower in the middle may help, but having the foundation at the beginning makes it stronger. That doesn’t mean that teaching older children is not important, but the prime time to do it is when they are young. Children and their personalities can change, but at the core, the essence of who they are is mostly rooted by the time they are 5.
As a mom, especially a Christian mom, teaching your child to be kind is not only biblical, it is also a foundational stepping stone to their future self. Wouldn’t it be better to have that foundation built on Jesus, the cornerstone?
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How To Teach Your Child To Be Kind
What exactly does it mean to be kind? For children, when you ask that question, the majority of the answers have to do with how people treat them:
- “Sally is kind because she lets me play with her”.
- “Being kind is when friends share blocks with me and don’t knock my tower down.”
- “My teachers are kind ‘cause they smile and give me hugs.”
- “Mommy’s kind. Sometimes. She cooks and brings me to school and gives me birthday cake.”
None of these answers were about what THEY could do to be kind. It was all about what OTHERS could do for them. Children are selfish by nature. Face it, most adults are, too. As Christian parents and teachers, it is imperative that we teach them to look beyond themselves and to be aware of others and their feelings. The phrase, “What would Jesus do?” is a fantastic starting point.
“Try to do what is good for others, not just what is good for yourselves.” -1 Corinthians 10:24 (ERV)
So how do we accomplish that? How do we teach our children to be kind?
3 Ways To Be Kind To Your Child
Be the example. Plain and simple. We know that children learn by example. As a teacher, the biggest eye-opener is when you let your students “play teacher”. They mimic your behavior and the words you say and how you say them. It’s funny the things they pick up on. Well, at times, it’s not so funny. If you ever want to know how your child perceives you, trade places and pretend to be the child and you the parent. You will quickly learn the areas that need improvement.
If children begin to understand the concept that THEIR ACTIONS AFFECT OTHERS and not just themselves, then kindness will be a natural progression.
Here are 3 ways to be kind to your child that will, in turn, teach them to be kind as well:
- Watch The Tone Of Your Voice
None of us are perfect. We have all lost our cool, been irritable, and yelled. The point is, it’s not only what you say, but how you say it that matters. When your child hears how you say things, they will repeat the tone as well.
Play this fun game/science experiment called “I Hear” to explain the tone of our voice. This puts it into perspective for us as well as kids.
- You will need a bowl, plastic wrap, rubber band, and dry rice or sprinkles.
- Wrap plastic wrap over the bowl and secure tightly with a rubber band. Make sure the surface is as smooth as possible.
- Place a small handful of rice or sprinkles in a single layer on the plastic wrap.
- Have your child get close to the bowl and repeat phrases in a gentle tone like “Will you play with me?”, then in a not so gentle tone like, “PLAY WITH ME!”.
- Compare the results. A gentle tone does not make the sprinkles move, but a mean tone does. This is a great visual to help them understand how the tone of our words need to be gentle. Perhaps repeating a code word “Sprinkle” might be a tool for you and them to say when things start to get out of control.
QUICK TIP – when I feel my voice level rising, I stop, breathe, put on some happy music or upbeat worship music, and dance around with my class. Pretty soon anger and frustration are replaced with smiles and laughter. It will work for you, too.
2. Watch The Words That You Say
The words that you speak over your children matter deeply. As parents and teachers, our words have enormous implications on children. I can remember what a teacher said to me 30 years ago and it still stings.
Children believe the words that are spoken over them – good or bad. Words are powerful. As Christian moms, we need to be speaking blessings, not curses over them. I have seen firsthand how teasing, name-calling, comparing kids to objects, body parts, or bodily functions (I’ve heard it all) from parents’ own mouths have had devasting effects on my students.
Have you ever done the toothpaste object lesson? It shows the power of our words.
- Have your child squeeze all of the toothpaste out of a tube.
- Now have them try and put it all back in.
- They can’t. It’s impossible.
- Our words are still out there. We can’t take them back.
To be kind to your child, let them hear encouraging words from you. Speak into them words more about their character than what they look like or excel at. The emphasis you place on the words you speak to them will be the emphasis that they place on themselves. The following are ways to have them hear your words even when you are not around.
- Make a daily audio journal of reasons you love your child, pointing out ways you saw them being kind, overcoming obstacles, etc. Put it on their electronic device for them to hear. For younger children, another fun way would be to record your words in a recordable stuffed animal.
- For older kids, write them a note. My daughter and I shared a notebook. She would write something to me and place it under my pillow, then I would do the same. It evolved into a scavenger hunt to find the notebook, but those were precious words spoken to each other. To this day, she is one of the kindest, most tenderhearted people.
- Sticky notes are also amazing. Who doesn’t love sticky notes? Write one word at a time and leave a trail around the house for them to find and decipher ways you love them and are proud of them for being kind.
QUICK TIP – keep sticky notes in the car, your purse, and around the house whenever you need to write down a kind word for your child.
RELATED: Using Words of Encouragement
3. Watch Your Actions And Reactions
You have heard that “actions speak louder than words”. It is so true. The same could be said about “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. Teaching children to be kind starts with the actions and reactions that we show them. How do you treat others with kindness at the store or while driving? At home, does your body language say one thing and your words say another?
Let your children see the struggles you have and how to overcome them. Your reaction to life’s mishaps is an immense opportunity to teach kindness to your child. Sometimes we can get so overwhelmed by the busyness of life, that we forget that we are actually teaching tiny humans how to treat others around them by our example.
I had a student one time tell me, “Your face says something different than your mouth”. It’s funny but extremely accurate. I have to remind myself that sometimes our facial reactions and our distractions say more than our words and are a prime example of how to teach about kindness to others even if we may not want to.
Children also learn through play. Teach them about kind actions towards siblings, family, and friends with this fun game called Action-Reaction.
- Set up a path in your home or class out of red and green construction paper with alternating colors.
- Have the child roll the dice and move forward that many colors. If they land on a red, they stop and answer a roleplay question like (Grandma dropped a can of soup on the floor, what would you do?). If they land on a green, they roll again. Continue until the end of the path.
QUICK TIP – If your actions and reactions are getting out of hand, stop and look in a mirror. See what you look like to others. Have your child look in the mirror with you. What do you see? Make a game out of it and have them mimic your facial expressions including silly faces and smiles. It is an easy way to lift the mood as well as help them understand how their actions and reactions affect those around them.
6 Ways To Teach Your Child To Be Kind To Others
Kindness is purposeful. We can think about ways to be kind to others, but kindness is acting upon it. We choose to be kind. My Grandma used to say, “Kindness is a way of sharing God’s blessings with others.” What she meant is to deliberately do things for others with the sole purpose of spreading the blessings around without any expectation of it being returned. In my class, we call it the 3 L’s:
- Look –Do they look sad? Are they alone? Is there someway you can help them? What would bring a smile to their face?
- Listen – How do they sound? Do they sound like they could use a friend? What are some things that they have said that you could help do for them? Ask them how you could help them?
- Love – After looking and listening, find ways to love them and treat them how you would want to be treated by something you do, something you give, or something you say.
It comes down to the Golden Rule, doesn’t it? It is the only rule I have in my class because it encompasses everything. The same could be true for your home. “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” (NLT) Plain and simple.
Teaching this one rule will create an environment of kindness. Some practical ways to teach your child to be kind to others might include:
- Roleplay – Ask questions. What would you do? How would you handle this situation? Help them act out the right way to show kindness.
- Books– Utilize books that show how we should treat our friends and family. Act out the story afterwards or with puppets for a retelling.
- Bible verses – There is no better way to teach kindness than with God’s word. I turn our weekly verses into action bible verses. By using actions to help them memorize it, they will be more willing to put it into practice.
- Real Life Situations – When a situation comes up, work with your child to find a solution for the correct way to handle it.
Here are 5 ways to teach your child to be kind to others.
- Play Secret Agent. Draw names every Sunday for everyone in your household of participating age to secretly do something kind during the week for the person they drew. They can’t tell who they drew, and they can’t let that person see them doing the kind act (picking up toys, unloading dishwasher, carry items to their room, draw a picture, first choice on entertainment, etc.) On Saturday, guess, reveal, and discuss the actions that were done. Repeat.
- Practice the 3 L’s at School and Church – Look, listen, and love on friends by purposefully watching for ones who are sad, lonely, or need help. Smile, offer to play or sit with them, or encourage them.
- Be a volunteer helper at School or Church. Volunteering is a way to help spread kindness outside of our own family. Suggestions might include cleaning up the classroom, playground, or washing toys (that is a favorite activity with my class), straightening Bibles or Hymnals in the pews, collecting bulletins after church, etc. Have children think of ways they could help.
- Be a Smile Spreader – One way to be kind is to make people smile and let them know that you care. Make cards for health care workers, first responders, soldiers, people in a local nursing home, or children in the hospital. Adopt one to become a Pen Pal.
- Be a Joy Giver – Collect gently used or new stuffed animals for first responders to give to children in trauma. Collect coats and toys for foster or needy children. Collect canned goods for a food pantry. Host a book drive for newborns or sick children for your local hospital. Have your child work (bag leaves, sweep sidewalk, etc.) for trusted friends or family for donations.
These are just suggestions to get you started teaching your kids to be kind. Kids are really good at coming up with things to do for others once they have a chance to put it into practice.
3 Ways To Teach Your Child To Be Kind To Animals
We can’t forget our furry friends. Oftentimes, how a child treats an animal is indicative of how they treat people. This is a great opportunity for them to think of others and take the focus off of themselves.
These 3 Ideas for teaching your child to be kind to animals are just the beginning…
- Show them how to have gentle hands and gentle voices around pets.
- Have them help with the care of pets:
- Even young children can feed and water pets
- Be in charge of picking up the pet’s toys
- Take turns brushing or cleaning up hair from pets.
- Visit an animal shelter. Help collect food, blankets, towels, and toys for animals.
- This is a definite way to make a big impact on their tender hearts. I remember when I took my kids to the shelter for the first time. It was heart wrenching. We wanted to save them all. My kids learned that kindness even reached to the animal world. They wanted to do whatever they could to help the “sad puppies” be happy.
10 Examples of Kindness From the Bible
Beyond roleplay, object lessons, trying to be an example, and games to make it easy for kids to understand, using the Bible is my favorite way to teach kindness. It is full of example after example of how to treat our neighbors.
- “A friend loves at all times.” -Proverbs 17:17 (AMPC)
- “A gentle answer turns anger away, but mean words stir up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1 (NIrV)
- “Love your Neighbor as yourself.” – Luke 10:27 (NLT)
- “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18 (NLT)
- “Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person.” – Proverbs 3:27 (MSG)
- “Do not let any bad words come out of your mouth. But say good things that will help people.” – Ephesians 4:29 (WE)
- “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” –Luke 6:31 NLT
- “Try to do what is good for others, not just what is good for yourselves.” -1 Corinthians 10:24 (ERV)
- “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” – James 1:19 (ISV)
- “Love each other. Love is what hold you all together in perfect unity.” – Colossians 3:14 (ICB)
Parents, I see you. I see the hard work you are doing. The most important job you will ever have is to disciple your own children at home. This is by no means a comprehensive list of ways to teach your child to be kind. There are many other ways to be kind to your child that you are probably already doing. I hope you may have gained a few new ideas or reminders. When all else fails, look to the Bible. It has all of the answers. There are so many examples of kindness from the Bible that we can learn from. The point is, let’s not do it alone. Let’s do it together.
Check out my blog and especially this post for a more in-depth look at teaching kindness in the classroom.
My name is Holley Farley. I am a mother of three grown children, a Preschool Teacher for over 30 years, and a Children’s Minister for 20 years. Children have my heart. My life’s mission is to help children and their caretakers fall in love with Jesus and make the world a better place. I started a blog, www.preschoolsos.com in 2020 and currently focus most of my time on social media to help moms and teachers. Follow me on Instagram and Facebook @preschoolsos.
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