Cultivating the Habit of Kindness

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We all have probably heard the principle that it is better to give than to receive, but how do we teach our children to treat others kindly, give generously, and serve willingly?

What are our kids mirroring?

Children are often like little mirrors, reflecting our attitudes and actions. They are watching us more than we care to admit!

What do we adults do with an opportunity to bless others?

It can be as simple as letting someone go ahead of us in line, sending a note to Any Soldier, or taking bread to a shut-in neighbor. Or it could involve a greater commitment of timesuch as volunteering on a regular basisor an investment of funds, such as paying for someones groceries or sponsoring a child.

When our children were young, we taught them to bring a cup of hot cocoa to the garbage collectors in the winter, and a cold drink in the summer. They looked forward to putting together shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, even the year that our family was jobless and our tight budget meant that they themselves would receive no gifts. We encouraged our middle and high schoolers to say hello to the new person at the homeschool skating event, to go the extra mile for someone who was being less than kind, and to give to those in need.

I am thankful that our children have grown up to be very giving, compassionate people who love God and others, and who take (and make) opportunities to bless others. And they are teaching this purposefully to their own children.

Conscious Kindness

Why purposefully? Even when you incorporate giving and kindness into your everyday life, your kids may not always “get” things by osmosis. If you’d like to more intentionally involve them as you model an attitude of giving, here are a few fun ideas:

  • “A Letter for the Postman”In Deborah Alter-Rasches fun and creative idea for surprising your mail carrier, children enjoy the blessing of giving and growing in character, while practicing language arts and fine arts! While this blog post is geared to preschoolers, any age can participate. And dont miss the links to more ideas at the end.
  • “Teaching Children to Think of Others”Author Chelsea Smith writes, Of course there are a million acts of kindness we can do daily . . . and none have to be complicated or expensive.We can simply smile at others, take a meal to a family in distress, or send a message of appreciation to someone who has touched our lives in some way”  She shares about a project her children did, then links to additional posts.
  • Cookies for the neighborscan be a great ice-breaker and a ministry tool. For a kid-friendly recipe, check out this recipe for fun–and cookies!
  • Pennies of Timeis a “place to exchange ideas on how to use small experiences to teach young children to serve. All it takes is a penny of time.” And to learn more about the website’s inspiration, read the story of the real Penny.

  • Mealtime Make-and-Take One military wife knew of many women having babies while their husbands were deployed, so she gathered a group of teens to make dinners and take them to the families. This was a win-win because she taught the teens some cooking skills, they got some “friend time” under the tutelage of this mentor-mom, and the new mamas got yummy suppers. (This idea could be used for anyone who might appreciate a meal.)
  • “How Do I Start with My Family”This mom recommends you keep it short and have fun!

  • Sole Hope shoe party is an opportunity for families and for students in middle school or above. If they can cut fabric with scissors, they can give hope and healing to a child with no shoes.
  • 52 Acts of KindnessIdeas for 52 acts of kindness that are not related to any specific holidays. The author also offers an inexpensive e-book scrapbook for your family to keep.
  • Seek volunteer opportunities in your community and encourage your children to share their talents and skills with others. Whether tutoring a struggling math student or raking a neighbor’s lawn, your child will learn about placing the needs of others ahead of his or her own.



Adapted from a newsletter by this author, previously published at, August 2017

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