“Your greatest contribution to the world may not be something you do but who you raise”
Let’s get real honest here for a second. Raising kids is tough, raising kind children –– even harder. We live in a crazy world –– pair that with social media, 24 hour news cycles and then toss in hard hitting election years and all of a sudden this simple prayer starts to feel like an uphill battle, or a task that seems near to impossible to actually achieve.
I get it, I’ve felt like that too. But one of my longing prayers has always been that If I teach my children nothing else, I hope it’s that they have learned to be kind, to show compassion and to love people. So I’m committed to trying my hardest to do, just that. I’ll be the first to say that I don’t always get it right, but trying is always better than throwing in the towel and calling it a day. Small steps, day by day, will make an impact, whether you see it or not.
So how do we start creating this culture of kindness and compassion? They first have to see it in action, and (this is a biggie) it starts at home.
Here are the simple habits and steps that we’re working on over here, I stress ‘working on’ because it is a work-in-progress for sure.
But, we’ve got this, you’ve got this, what we do now will have a ripple effect for generations to come.
01. Model the behavior you want to see
I was raised in a southern American home where ‘please’ and ‘thank-yous’, ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘yes sir’, we’re the norm in our household and you would never call an adult by their first name, like ever. Although I think society has moved on slightly from those strict mandates, especially on this side of the pond, I think it set the foundation for some great overarching respect. I knew that as the minimum I wanted our kids to make a habit out of ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’ from the beginning. But what I also realized is that my husband and I rarely said it to each other, not out of disrespect, but just out of functioning habit. We soon concluded that if we wanted our children to make this part of their vocabulary, then we needed to make it part of ours.
02. Practice Gratitude
Take the time to thank others and converse with your kids about the good things happening all around them. This can look like a simple dinner conversation of thanking the farmers for our vegetables or verbalizing a simple “thank you” to a neighbour or friend who has done something nice. We make it a part of our bedtime routine in the evening by saying prayers of what we're thankful for that day. For our boys that’s mostly planes, trains and tractors these days, but exercising that gratitude muscle while they’re young will hopefully help them strengthen it in the years to come. Gratitude can help with eliminating comparison, changing perspective and causing us to walk with eyes open to the good things all around us, even in the most trying seasons.
03. Reward and recognize good behavior.
When you see it, say it! When your kids act compassionately towards someone, use their manners or act kindly –– be sure to praise them for it. Make sure they know how proud and happy you are that they acted a certain way or said something that was nice. You can also take it a step further and point out kind behavior in others. When someone does something kind for you or your family have a conversation about it and how it made you feel.
04. Be generous with time and money.
Our children are like sponges and they will take cues from how we act. If you want to cultivate a sense of generosity and kindness then practice it as a family. Maybe for you this looks like giving to a charity, or delivering food to someone in need. Our family sponsors a child through Compassion International and our children have the opportunity of writing them letters and sending them pictures. Start small, but start.
05. Read and reflect.
Grab our Children’s Affirmation Pack and start having conversations and brainstorming with your kids about how to be kind, loving and make a difference to those around them.
People who do great things started by doing small things greatly. And there’s nothing our world needs more right now than a generation and future leaders who are capable of showing love and kindness.