Here’s what I say every single day when my kids are heading off to school and I’m wrestling them for one more kiss and hug, silently praying I’ve signed all the forms, and hoping their underwear is on the right way, “Have a good day… I love you…Make good choices… Be Kind!” As parents, we can talk about kindness at home and model it for our kids, but we aren’t always there to whisper in that creepy, loud mom whisper “be kind.” With the craziness of the holidays around the corner, there are so many opportunities to teach our kids to be kind. So here’s two activities that are perfect for the entire family to be kinder and share kindness.
Catching and Spreading Kindness- This idea helps motivate your entire family to be kind, catch others being kind, and spread kindness. Grab an empty jar and the spare change that’s weighing your purse down or hanging out in your car. Explain to your family everyone will be “catching” each other being kind and every time a family member is caught being kind, a coin goes into the jar. Be sure to give them age appropriate examples:
- Saying thank you without being reminded
- Sharing toys
- Helping clear the dinner table
- Helping younger siblings get ready
- Picking up litter in the street
- Helping out around the house when it’s not part of your regular chores
- Being kind to a friend or family member when they need a friend
- Mommy having patience when she has zero patience
- Daddy completing a task the first time Mommy asks him (see what I did there)
You may find at first it’s the parents catching the kindness, but it won’t take long for your kids to catch some kindness. This easy activity makes everyone more aware of the good things we do every single day (as opposed to just focusing on the negative). So now there’s a lot more “I love that you just picked up everyone’s shoes and put them in the closet!” or “It was so kind of you to help the neighbor by raking their leaves.”Big and small actions, doesn’t matter—catch them being kind and add a coin to the jar!
Now it’s time to spread the kindness! After a designated amount of time has passed (the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving or the weeks before Christmas), as a family, decide where the money will go. Maybe it’s buying food and warm beds for the animals at a local pet shelter or purchasing warm coats for needy kids. The idea is to catch kindness, have the jar as a constant reminder, and spread kindness by doing something kind for others with the money collected.
Grateful Gifts- You know that moment when your kids are faced with a pile of presents that were carefully selected by loved ones, beautifully wrapped, and probably cost a small fortune? You know how it takes mere moments for kids to rip through each and every package and your darling children look up and say what you’re dreading the most, “Are there any more?” Instead of hiding your face in piles of shredded wrapping paper, give your kids a practice run and the right words to say with “Grateful Gifts.”
Have the kids go through the house and select three “gifts” for each other— only items that are already in your house. Here’s the rules:
- The first gift has to be one the other person will LOVE.
- The second gift has to be a practical gift.
- The third gift has to be a super silly gift.
Help the kids wrap the gifts for each other (newspaper works too!). Now everyone unwraps one present at a time while everyone else watches—this is helping them slow down when they are so, so excited.
After they open the gift, they must look at the gift giver, and say “Thank you, ______. I really like this gift because_____.” Then the next person can open a gift.
A few things happen with each gift:
- When picking out the gift another person loves, (think about their favorite toys,books or games--things we already know they love. My son wrapped up his iPad for his sister to borrow ), you can explain how much time and thought is put into all those gifts loved ones will give them for the holidays. Plus it’s just awesome to make someone you love happy by getting them something they really like. So we’re practicing and thinking about kindness.
- When they get the practical gift—shoes, shirt, a toothbrush—they still have a kind response because even though a toothbrush isn’t super exciting, we still need those practical gifts and can be kind and grateful to the person that gave it to us. Help them out if they are stuck on what to say “I really like this toothbrush because now I won’t get cavities.”
- And the silly gift, well that’s just fun and around here, usually it’s a pair of underwear because, come on, underwear are funny.
The holidays are the most magical and wonderful time of year, and being the supermom that you are, you want to make this holiday season spectacular for your kids. So in a few weeks, if you find yourself at the end of your holiday garland and vow to never go through all the trouble to make everyone's holidays merry and bright again, maybe these activities will remind your family to be a little kinder. Just in time for you to squeeze your kids a little tighter and wish the holidays lasted a little longer.
This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.