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When I sit down and really try to think about the things that touch my soul day in and day out, kindness is at the top of that list. Just think about a difficult day that you've had lately. Did anyone have the power to turn your day upside down and make it bright again? Maybe it was your significant other who decided to cook dinner when they came home from work. It could have been the way that your little one squeezed you tightly around the neck as they whispered those three little words into your ear before bed. What about the gentleman that held the door open for you as your tried to corral your toddler, the stroller, and multiple bags on each arm through the exit before you left the store? There are so many ways that a person can touch your soul by showing just a small amount of kindness when you're least expecting it.
The list in my mind is long, when I think about the values that I hope to instill in my son before he heads out into the world. What I hope for Grady is that he is one of those people that makes his loved ones feel special, cared about even. Makes others feel at ease, as if they are talking to their best friend even if they are simply an acquaintance. Kindness is one of those characteristics that emanates from a person...you can see it in their eyes, hear it in their voice, and feel it as it drapes around you.
As a toddler, Grady is just starting to figure out that he is a separate person, responsible for his own actions. What a wonderful time to start really focusing on demonstrating kindness in our everyday lives so he can grow up to be a considerate, loving individual! Lately, I have intentionally tried to spotlight teachable moments that happen while we are together. It may be when we are playing, other times when we're out visiting with others, or even during common interactions that we have with people throughout the day.
Modeling, Involvement, and Pretend PlayI know these may seem like common sense when it comes to teaching a toddler about kindness, but this is where we started with our little one. Right now, Grady is soaking up everything we say and do like a sponge. It almost seems like he is aspiring to be like some of his closest members of the family. It is adorable! In addition to being a good role model for our son, we also stress the importance of participating in the actual acts kindness as well. Whether it be involving him with an activity or chore that we may be doing together as a family, or prompting him to try it our for himself, he is learning through doing. Pretend play is another great avenue for introducing the concept of showing kindness to others. There is not much he wouldn't do for his stuffed animals...even share his food with them!
Here are some simple ways that we model and
encourage Grady to show kindness:
Manners: Remind them to say "please" and "thank you" even before they can form the words. Thank your spouse for making you a cup of tea while you are sitting down to unwind for the night. Help the little ones make a thank you card for a gift they received from a neighbor. Ask him to help "feed" his stuffed bunny during snack time.
Affection: Give you little one squeezes every chance you get. Hold hands with your loved one. Teach them how to pat their favorite teddy on the back when they hold him close. Show them how to blow kisses when they leave a relative's house. Say "I Love You" when you leave, when you put them to bed, when they give you that smile that makes your heart melt. Don't forget to show them how to put a band-aid on their puppy when he gets a scrape.
Sharing: Split a bag of crackers with your child during snack time. Ask them if you can have a cookie off of their plate. Make an extra serving of food for your baby dolls and let them share amongst themselves. Let them swap toys back and forth between the kiddos on a play date. Pass the bag of chips around the living room while you're watching a movie. Wrap your coat around you little one when it's chilly.
Lend a Helping Hand: Take them outside and let the littles plant some veggies in the garden. Take out the trash even if it's not your turn. Give the kiddos a dust cloth and ask them to clean a shelf that is within their reach. Do a random act of kindness for a stranger or even a relative. Let them pull the clothes out of the laundry basket when you are folding them to put away. Help the cook clean up the dishes after a meal. Go to Grandma's and include them in a project that you are helping her with. Hold the door open for someone while you are out.
Demeanor: Smile, A LOT. Speak kindly to them and to others all around you. Find the positive in the everyday. If the kiddos get into trouble, explain to them why it is wrong and how it could harm them or others. Don't cringe when you are asked a favor, if you are able to do it, do so joyfully. Talk to others (including the little ones) with respect.
My goal, as we continue on with our journey as a family, is to focus on reviving the level of kindness that we show towards others outside the family...when we're out in the world, in everyday situations. Often times we get wrapped up in the errands that we have to do or the schedule that we're on. We don't take enough time to let the kindness emanate from us to people we come in contact with everyday. Everyone could use a little kindness from others. We need to intentionally try to brighten someones day, even in the smallest of ways.
"Kindness should become the natural way of life,
not the exception." ~Buddha
If you are looking for ways to spread kindness to others with the kiddos, here are a few more great ideas...
Include them in gift giving for special occasions, like when a new baby enters the world! ~Mommy With Selective Memory
Let them create something special for others to brighten their day. They can even come up with the idea doing something they love! ~Glittering Muffins
Pull out those old Christmas or birthday cards and let the kiddos create new ones to have on hand. Instead of saying thank you, they can write it down. ~Red Ted Art
Discuss selfless acts with the little ones and take action! Don't forget to keep a running list of what you came up with, so you can refer back to it often. ~The Educators' Spin On It
Take your children with you when you volunteer so that they can lend a hand, too. This is a great time to model manners and your demeanor towards others as well! ~52 Brand New
Read books to your children that contain good examples of others showing kindness and compassion in their interactions. ~Imagination Soup
Help your children brainstorm and generate ideas on ways they can show kindness to others on their level. ~PreK + K Sharing
Make it your mission to look for the opportunities to serve others. Don't try to look the other way when you see someone in need, instead open yourself up to spread kindness wherever you go. ~ Mamascout
Take a kindness challenge! You'll find 25+ wonderful ideas on how to incorporate kindness from Toddler Approved's challenge that they took during the month leading up to Valentine's Day (along with fellow bloggers)! ~Toddler Approved!
How do you teach your children kindness? If you have any other posts relating to kindness, please leave the link and I will pin it on our Connect: Kindness and Gratitude Pinterest board!