Christmas. Summer holidays. It's the season for social media posts about gratitude and random acts of kindness.
In some ways, I love these posts and support people slowing down and appreciating the little (and not so little) things in life. Kindness is always a good thing. If you have the opportunity to make someone smile, you should definitely take it.
What I worry about, however, are the messages we send our kids when we push gratitude and kindness for nearly two months and then go back to business as usual.
The truth is, gratitude is best taught throughout the year. Children should learn to slow down and appreciate the little things throughout the year as well. It's better to engage in deliberate acts of kindness every day. Kindness is a choice we make, and children should learn from a young age that by putting kindness into the world, they have the power to make the world a better place. You don’t have to hand out gift cards to strangers to practice kindness.
Big gestures are nice, but often the small gestures hold more meaning. For children to truly grasp the power of kindness, it helps if they see the direct impact their acts of kindness generate.
With that in mind, as Australian children return to school for the 2020 year, I suggest encouraging them to practice small and deliberate acts of kindness through the year.
1. Hold The Door - Teach your children to hold the door open for others when out and about. This small act of kindness will keep children connected and encourages them to communicate with people face-to-face.
2. Read To Someone - A great way to help kids connect with others is to encourage them to read out loud. Reading brings people together. Whether your child reads to a younger sibling or shares a favorite book with an aunt or uncle, reading to someone else shows that person that you want to connect and share your world.
3. Support A Friend - Children are busy. With the number of extra-curricular activities, they often forget to consider what their friends are doing. Take your child to one of their friend's sporting events and encourage them to cheer and get involved. By cheering each other on, children will strengthen their friendships.
4. Let Someone Go Ahead In A Line - Children get competitive when lining up (so do adults come to think of it!) Teach your children to let a classmate go in front of them. Letting someone else go ahead shows that we’re all in it together and that we think of others.
5. Include Someone At Recess / Lunch - Inviting someone new to sit or play with you can really change not only a child's day but their life. Many children say break times, especially lunch, is the most worrying part of their day in case they are not able to find a welcoming table. If each child invites one new person each, watch the kindness spread through the canteen.
6. Write The Teacher A Thank You Note - Before Christmas, teachers' are overwhelmed with gifts and thank you presents, but having your child write short notes shows the teacher they are appreciated. Encourage this behaviour helps your child connect with their teacher, too.
7. Write A Handwritten Letter - Children love to give and receive mail and receiving a handwritten note to say "hello" or "I'm thinking of you" makes anyone feel appreciated!
8. Help Someone Else - Children love to help others so encourage your children to ask a neighbour if they may be struggling with their shopping, for example. They are capable of getting in there and carry a bag or two to lighten someone's load.
9. Make Treats for Others - Children love to bake and make things in the kitchen. Baking something yummy is a great way to show kindness so fire up that oven and let the creating begin!
10. Teach Children To Give and Receive Compliments - Sometimes a compliment at the right moment can really brighten someone’s day. Talk to your kids about compliments that uplift others (e.g., "I really liked that story you shared in class today."), and encourage them to use compliments often.
When kids see that acts of kindness are uplifting for others, they are more likely to engage in kind acts regularly.
Skip the random acts this year, and focus on daily acts of kindness throughout the year.