Do you ever go to the park with your kids and wonder how in the world some of today’s kiddos can act so awful? I mean, seriously? I have sat back and observed countless–and I mean countless–meltdowns, temper tantrums, and downright appalling behavior from some of the cutest little munchkins around! This got me thinking: how can I raise my kids to be kind, loving and respectful individuals? And better yet, how young can I start?
How can I raise my Kids to be kind, loving, and respectful?
After some serious research and soul searching (and observing other parents whom I believe are rockin’ it in the kind kid category), here are some of my favorite ways to help your kids get invited to all the fun birthday parties…and make a positive difference in this world:
My list of ways to kids be kind
1. SHARING IS CARING
We are blessed to have a little piece of dirt, as I like to call it. We live on almost 1 1/2 acres in northern California and having that kind of space means we have plenty of room for a good-sized garden. I do not pretend to have the greenest thumb in the world but I can grow a mean crop of artichokes, zucchini, tomatoes, and watermelon! And even though we are a relatively big family with seven mouths to feed, there is no way in God’s green Earth that we could ever eat all that our crops produce. So, we share! Last year, we created, “The Mathews Family Farm Stand,” which is our little set-up on the street where we leave the extra bounty we have and will never eat for our community to come and take. Last summer, we must have had our farm stand out at least six or seven times and guess what? It absolutely made everyone’s day who walked, drove, or cycled by. We had neighbors stop and tell us how they made homemade spaghetti sauce with the tomatoes we gave away. We had families pull over to tell us how yummy and sweet our watermelon were. And we had passersby come to see if we had any more of those HUGE zucchinis we had grown. And do you know how much each of those plants cost us? $4.99. What a cheap price to pay to brighten someone’s day, help put homegrown food on a table, and nourish our community. And the best part is, my kids were involved with it all.
My girls were just 6 years old and my little guy was 3 years old when we started our farm stand. But they were part of the garden planning, pruning and harvesting long before that. And then, when it is time to share our crops, they help pull our wagon and our veggie basket out to the street to set up our little free farmer’s market. They love seeing what they planted grow. And they have grown to love seeing the happy faces and hearing the “Thank Yous” from all of our neighbors and community.
This seems so simple and obvious, right?! Well actually, it is. You don’t need a huge plot of land to grow your own food (correction: you do need space for those sprawling watermelons!). And you definitely don’t need a lot of money to plant a few veggies. But what you will gain by teaching your little ones early on about sharing is a priceless lesson that no child can afford NOT to learn.
2. DO AWAY WITH BIRTHDAY PARTY PRESENTS
Oh yeah, you read that right! Although I have a feeling that I may get some hate emails from this kind kid suggestion, just hear my out. Your kid doesn’t need 15 presents from all of the kids at their birthday party! There you go, I said it. Now let me explain:
My kids don’t either. In fact, I would venture to say that most kids don’t need all of those presents. From the time my twins celebrated their 1st birthday party, I made it clear to party attendees: no presents please. Now of course they got presents, but those were given to them from us and their grandparents. All of the party attendees are asked to forego the presents and instead bring something to donate to whatever cause my twins decide on. The photo above was taken of my girls after their 5th birthday party (and this is NOT a staged photo, people!). For their cause, they chose animals, which is no surprise there since they both adore all furry and feathered friends. When all was said and done and we dropped the supplies to the local animal shelter, there must have been 20 blankets, 50 cans of food, countless bags of dry food, toys, treats, and beds. And THIS was the very un-curated photo of the girls about to take it all in to the shelter. No tears about how many presents they didn’t get at their party. Instead, they were able to go in, drop off a huge bin of supplies, and then tour the facility to meet all of the cats and dogs they were a part of helping.
I don’t believe it is ever too early to start teaching kids that if we aren’t a part of the solution, then we are in some way a part of the growing problem. Littles may not be able to articulate what the word empathy means, but I know for sure that their little hearts can feel it.
3. GIVE BACK
I have headed up a large homeless shelter holiday gift bag donation for almost 15 years. Each fall, I solicit my family, friends and online community to donate over 3,000 essential items for the homeless. It is quite a task but so rewarding to see the boxes and boxes of collected items building up in our business, as we do not have any better place to store the goods. Once December rolls around and all of the items have been collected, I gather about 20 of my family and closest friends and we have a bag-stuffing party! It’s a crank-up-the-holiday-music kind of festivity. We set up a huge assembly line of stations, so that we can easily and hopefully accurately stuff each of the 100 bags with the 30+ items we have. Station 1 usually has the Bibles, because they are the heaviest and need to be put in the bag first. Station 2 often has socks, or handmade beanies, or even Clif Bars…you get the idea.
Since my kids were young (like young!), they have come to the bag stuffing night. Although it is often more difficult to include them in the night’s events because their short attention spans allows for stations to be missed, bags to forgotten about, and items to get misplaced. But I have very intentionally given up my complete OCD about the night’s event and given in to the understanding that including kids in these kinds of functions are essential. They may not fully grasp what we are doing, but I can tell you that when the girls see a homeless person on the side of the road holding a sign, they always ask if we could make a bag for them. They always wonder if they need a warm jacket or an umbrella to keep them dry. Somehow, they get it. They connect those, “See a need, fill a need” dots. My hope is that they continue connecting those dots their whole life.
For more ways to Raise Kind Kids, check out Part 2 HERE…