What kind of kindness can kids kindly give? How is a kind kid created? A room full of toddlers all wanting the same toy is usually not a picture of kindness. A soccer field full of competing children may not demonstrate kindness. A group of teens with laughing sarcasm and a cell phone may not be generating kindness. Kids know kindness is key, but may not consider it crucial. So what is the key to raising kind kids?
A Harvard professor was studying kindness in kids and found this result: “About 80 percent of the youth in the study said their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others. The interviewees were also three times more likely to agree that ‘My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.’”
Ouch. I’ll bet a bunch of parents would be surprised to hear that statistic. I look back on my own years of raising kids and cringe. All of us tend to emphasize what can be measured. What does a kid need to do if he wants an “A” in kindness? Will they be graded on a curve or is it simply an objective decision? How do you teach your kids how to be kind, and whom do you teach them to be kind to? Jesus said to “love your neighbor as you would have them love you.” Is everyone our neighbor?
That same article said: “Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help the become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood.”
The Harvard professor suggested five steps to raising a kind kid:
- Make caring for others a priority.
- Provide opportunities for children to practice caring.
- Expand your child’s circle of concern.
- Be a strong moral role model.
- Guide children in managing destructive feelings.
I would agree with the above but, truthfully, who wouldn’t? It is the long bridge between knowing and doing that seems to be the problem. I think the road to kindness is found in something greater than personal training. Kids want to be treated kindly and usually treat others that way . . . until that tough moment they are not treated kindly.
Maybe the key to kindness is found in grace. What kind of kindness should kids kindly give? The answer: the kindness of Christ. Most kids can understand their need for Christ at an early age. They know they aren’t perfect, even if we think they are. Kids remember when they said something unkind or treated someone like an enemy. When kids come to understand they can act unkindly, they can understand they need Jesus. When your child meets Jesus, you will see the kindness of Christ in them.
I’m not a Harvard professor, but here are my five steps to raising a kind kid:
- Teach them that when they are kind, they are acting like Christ.
- Praise and reward them when they display the kindness of Christ to others.
- Expect them to be kind, even when kindness isn’t returned.
- Remember that your kids will probably be kind because their parents are kind.
- Teach grace and forgiveness as the highest standards for kindness.
What kind of kindness do you want to see in your kids? Aim for the kindness of Christ. They won’t always get there, but the goal will produce a lot of reward in their lives.