Inside: 8 real-world tips (and books!) to intentionally raise kind and compassionate kids from the founder of Kind Projects of Discovery and Service (Kind P.O.D.S.).
As a mom of three kids under 4 years old, I care about many things when it comes to raising them well. Parenting can feel overwhelming, and when it does, I simplify my approach by going back to these three concepts; kindness, compassion, and empathy.
In the early years, empathy and kindness might be the last thing we expect from our kids, given they are developmentally self-centered and perspective-taking skills are still very much under development.
Yet, young children do have the foundations for altruistic behavior. Supporting empathy can start in infancy and evolve as kids get bigger, laying the infrastructure for ethical, successful adults.
So many of us in today’s world, truly value “caring” over “achievement” in our kids, yet the hours spent in school and on homework do not support those values.
This change is coming, but cultural institutions are slower than we would like.
How can we fill that gap and infuse our everyday lives with the intentionality of teaching our kids kindness, compassion, empathy beyond pleasantries of manners?
Just like anything in parenting, incorporating these topics into daily habits is a work in progress. My husband and I try to keep the humor and embrace the humanness of it all. We are not perfect. We are not tacos 🙂
As you know, for better or for worse, kindness, compassion, empathy, and inclusion displayed through our behavior is extremely important in developing these assets in our kids. We have to walk the walk, people! What does that look like on a daily basis? These are the steps we strive for in my family.
8 Ways to Encourage Compassion, Empathy, and Kindness in Your Child
1. Be Vulnerable
Admit when you don’t know the answers and include your kids when seeking the answers. When you make a mistake, say sorry to your kids or your partner.
2. Be Kind, YOURSELF
Exercise patience and give people the benefit of the doubt.
Narrate when you do daily kind acts. Say “Look that lady has her hands full, let’s open the door for her!”, or “Let’s let this car in front of us”, “Why don’t we surprise the person behind us in line and pay for her order!”
Directing your kids’ attention to kindness is key!
3. Be Kind TO Yourself
Show your kids the importance of taking care of ourselves by doing things that you love. Read, meditate, exercise, create, eat healthy foods, keep a gratitude journal, get good sleep, do whatever makes you feel great! It’s hard to be compassionate, empathetic and kind to others if we don’t take deep care ourselves.
4. Exercise Gratitude and Kindness
Starting a gratitude practice can be as simply talking about what each member of the family is thankful for during dinner.
We use sticky notes to create an easy gratitude wall to draw and write what we are thankful for.
If you don’t have wall space, you can make a gratitude jar and keep it in a place that the whole family can access.
You can also make cards for their grandma and her friends, take neighbors garbage out, hold the door for strangers, put your grocery cart away, go shop for a small gift for a neighbor, pick out and put books in the free library, find toys and clothes to donate together, make cookies for a new mother or for firefighters or other service workers, go on a nature walk, pick up litter in the park after play. Ask your kids for suggestions!!
5. Celebrate Differences and Include Others
Expand your friend circles to have meaningful relationships with people that are different than you. You can start by going to community festivals, public parks, YMCAs, school functions that connect to the broader community and go to area conversations centered around this topic.
You can join organizations that emphasize diversity. Be open and talk to people when you are out, even if you feel nervous or shy.
You can also diversify your toys or dolls by selecting with different abilities and skin color in mind.
6. Show Empathy
When you watch a movie or read a book, see a situation play out at the park or in the playroom, ask your kids “How do you think they feel?”
Tell your kids to look at the other person’s face or their actions to give them clues about how the other person feels.
Roleplaying is another effective way to understand others emotions. Ask, “How would you feel if your toy was broken?”
7. Read Books
But not just any book — books that spark conversations about kindness, compassion, and inclusion.
Some of the well-known books on kindness include Be Kind, Have You Filled A Bucket Today, We’re All Wonders or Last Stop On Market Street these are all beautiful books every child’s bookshelf should have, but here are some of my favorites that you may not have heard about yet.
Peace Is an Offering – This book takes you through many ways to delight in the world, connecting and doing small acts for others.
The Big Umbrella– This is a beautiful story about the magic of an umbrella’s capacity to include and shelter everybody.
The Rabbit Listened– This story illustrates how advice doesn’t work until a friend just sits and listens. A simple, but important message for both kids and parents!
One Love– Adapted from the famous Bob Marley song by his daughter. Encourages reaching out in love and having fun spending time together.
Pass It On– A girl spreads happiness by sharing with her joy with others.
8. Strengthen Family Bonds By Working Together to Help Others
Spending time together as a family is crucial in raising kind kids. Using family-time to act on kindness doubles the effect.
I have tried to make compassion, empathy, and kindness a focus of our parenting. This has quickly turned into my passion, so I spent lots of time researching how to do this — how to bring such an abstract idea to kids and make it more concrete. In the process, I thought, why not share all this hard work with others?
I created Kind Packages of Discovery and Service (P.O.D.S) because the concept of raising kids to be kind and empathetic is vague– not only for kids is this concept abstract, but also for adults.
I wanted tangible and authentic ways to go deeper and teach my kids about the community around them, to value differences and teach them how to feel for and help others without spending half my time at the local craft store or my paycheck in the pursuit.
Kind P.O.D.S. is a quarterly toolkit that gives you all you need — delivered to your door. We deliver quarterly so you can take your time to do the 3 to 4 activities in each box when it best fits your family.
The toolkit is filled with eco-friendly and ethical supplies to use in activities that spread kindness in your local community, materials to help a nonprofit around the world, and an engaging children’s story written by an author of color.
Leave the craft sourcing, service project planning, non-profit research to me! This is an intentional and authentic practice you and your family can feel great about and look forward to each quarter!
We want to live in a kinder world. So, the change starts within our hearts, our families, our communities, and ripples far beyond our wildest dreams. Let’s join our sticky hands and transform our communities with the smallest of open-hearted messengers.