Are babies born “kind” or is kindness a learned behavior? After looking at several studies the best answer I could find to that question is “yes.” Human beings are born with a natural sense of compassion for others. But that natural compassion can be impacted by the way a child is raised. Kindness is something that can be nurtured and rewarded beginning in the first months of a child’s life, and some children will need more “nurturing” than others.
Diana Divecha, PhD, writing for developmentalscience.com said, “In the flow of everyday life, tantrums, conflicts, and other demands can obscure more gentle behaviors, and adults may start reinforcing achievement-related skills over helping behaviors in the preschool years.” That same article spoke about the progressive schools today that have begun to incorporate lessons that cultivate character, kindness, and a larger civic perspective in children.
The beginning of a new year is a good time to step back and view the bigger picture. Good parents teach their children how to “achieve.” How can you teach your child to achieve a character of kindness? Consider this advice from the only perfect source for advice, God’s word. Colossians 3 outlines these goals, if you want to raise kind kids:
- If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (v.1) The single most important goal you can have for your children is that they will be “raised with Christ,” meaning, become Christians themselves. What choices can you make this year that will show your children that the “things above” are most important?
- Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (v.2). Infants can learn to value kindness. Ask yourself, “What achievements does the world give out trophies for?” Now, don’t set your mind, your focus, and your parenting priorities on those things. We can know what matters most but still be focused on what matters less.
- Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator (vv.9–10). Christians lie to one another when we don’t act like the person God has recreated us to be. When we teach our kids to know Jesus and pursue his presence, we teach our kids how to be truthful Christians who are truly kind.
- Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other (vv.12–13). If you want your child to be kind, teach them to look in their mirror and see the person God chose to love and make holy. Our children will be kind if we teach them who they truly are—the redeemed, adopted child of God. We want our kids to grow up and look like their Abba Father.
Raising kind kids is raising kids who know and love Christ. If that is your parenting goal for 2017, you will help your kids pursue those things that are above. I don’t know what the trophy will look like, but I’m sure it will be your child’s greatest achievement.