Raising children can seem like a constant battle. Most parents feel this way at least some of the time, and we may be tempted to say something unkind when we are frustrated or tired. We want family life to be smooth and pleasant, but children often test their boundaries. A desire to reach out to our children in caring ways can change the frustration into satisfying relationships with everyone growing together.
Listening, feeling, and understanding others' needs and trying to help meet those needs is kindness. Showing kindness can change the tone and feeling in a family. Kindness includes a desire to encourage rather than criticize and to treat our children with respect and love, more like we would treat close friends. Kindess must begin with us: The best way to teach our children to be kind is to be kind ourselves.
We invite you to begin by viewing the 7-minute video “You Can Do This-Showing Kindness.” Take a look at the Big Picture for an overview of the principles of showing kindness. Then review and choose an activity from the section on Things to Try for teaching family members to show kindness. We would enjoy hearing your stories about how these activities helped or about other things you did that worked for you.
Remember, you’re not alone. You can do this.
"I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow-creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." (Stephen Grellet).
What is Kindness?
Kindness is taking a moment to listen, feel, understand, and acknowledge another person and his or her needs. Kindness requires action. The kind person is not too unaware or too busy to notice and to help someone.
What are the Benefits of Kindness?
Kindness is at the heart of positive relationships. Kind words lift during moments but often linger for years. Showing kindness is commonly passed on as recipients of our kindness are kind to others. Showing kindness helps us avoid misunderstandings. Kindness is incompatible with anger. It should permeate all of our words and actions, not only within our families but in all our relationships.
Kindness Begins With You
Have you ever seen parents who yell at their children to stop yelling? Children are natural mimics. Any hope for seeing a change in family kindness must begin with us. Showing kindness may begin by refraining from criticism.
Recognizing that we could do better might put our hearts in the right place, but we have to act to really change. We might wish our children or spouse would change, but we need to recognize that we will be better able to help them change if we change. Once we have become more kind ourselves, it’s easy to teach kindness to others.
Notice Opportunities to be Kind
Don’t avoid the more difficult opportunities. There may be a particular person--someone at work or at church or even in the family--with whom it just seems hard to be kind. When we are sensitive, we will notice an opportunity to be kind, even when doing so may not be our first impulse.
As you notice opportunities and express kindness yourself, you’ll create experiences you can use in teaching your children.
The Teaching Pattern
Describe the skill and explain why it is important. “Tonight we’re going to talk about showing kindness. There are three steps: (1) notice opportunities, (2) feel and understand, (3) use caring words and actions. Who can tell me the three steps? (Family repeats the steps.) To me, showing kindness is important because it shows others we care about them. Why do you think it is important?" (Short discussion follows.)
Show what the skill looks like.
Have children practice multiple times (examples and non-examples).
Provide lots of encouragement, praising what they do correctly. If they made a mistake, first point out what they they did correctly, then explain what needs to be improved. End with an encouraging statement.
The Power of Kindness
“Never suppress a generous thought” (Camilla Kimball).
“No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves” (Amelia Earhart)
“Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends. It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes. Kind words not only lift our spirits in the moment they are given, but they can linger with us over the years” (Joseph B. Wirthlin).
“When you carry out acts of kindness you get a wonderful feeling inside. It is as though something inside your body responds and says, yes, this is how I ought to feel” (Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People)
“Kind looks, kind actions, kind words . . . will bind our children to us with bands that cannot easily be broken” (Brigham Young).
Kindness is the desire to reach out to others in caring ways.
Showing kindness is at the “heart” of positive relationships.
Showing kindness is the power that helps create and maintain relationships.
Showing kindness fosters kindness in return.
Simple kindness is long remembered.
Kindness matters to those who receive it and to those who give it, as illustrated by the following story:
“An older boy and his young companion were walking along a road which led through a field. They saw an old coat and a badly worn pair of men’s shoes by the roadside, and in the distance they saw the owner working in the field.
“The younger boy suggested that they hide the shoes, conceal themselves, and watch the perplexity on the owner’s face when he returned.
“The older boy . . . thought that would not be so good. He said the owner must be a very poor man. So after talking the matter over, at his suggestion they concluded to try another experiment. Instead of hiding the shoes, they would put a silver dollar in each one and … see what the owner did when he discovered the money. So they did that.
“Pretty soon the man returned from the field, put on his coat, slipped one foot into a shoe, felt something hard, took it out and found a silver dollar. Wonder and surprise [shone] upon his face. He looked at the dollar again and again, turned around and could see nobody, then proceeded to put on the other shoe; when to his great surprise he found another dollar. His feelings overcame him. … He knelt down and offered aloud a prayer of thanksgiving, in which he spoke of his wife being sick and helpless and his children without bread. . . . He fervently thanked the Lord for this bounty from unknown hands and evoked the blessing of heaven upon those who gave him this needed help.
“The boys remained [hidden] until he had gone.” They had been touched by his prayer and felt something warm within their hearts. As they left to walk down the road, one said to the other, 'Don’t you have a good feeling?'” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Lessons I Learned as a Boy,” New Era, Oct 1998, p. 4).