Raising kind kids is hard, but these activities and random acts of kindness will help them to see the good and look for ways to help, especially with their siblings. This 14 day challenge will have your kids being kinder to the people around them in 2 short weeks!
One of my kids used to be a greedy monster. I remember one time when a nanny took the girls to the mall, and they walked into Build-A-Bear Workshop. The nanny texted me and asked if I would buy them each a bear. I said no, they didn't need new stuffed animals.
Apparently, all manner of tantrums ensued. My child fell into a wailing and moaning fit well outside what was acceptable for her age.
If I had been the one taking the kids to the mall, I would never have taken them into Build-A-Bear to begin with, so this would not have been a problem. I questioned the wisdom of allowing the girls to go in and finger the animals without permission to begin with, but the fact that my daughter couldn't window shop without feeling entitled to a gift concerned and angered me.
How did I get here, where my child expected a treat just because she walked into a store? It was my own fault, but I didn't know how to correct it.
I did some research on gratitude and entitlement in children, and one of the prevailing themes was that being kind to others could combat selfishness and feelings of entitlement. The idea is that by spreading kindness to others and focusing on their needs, the children begin to think more about others than themselves.
The trouble was that I had never been consistent with acts of kindness toward others. I sponsored children across the globe, but my kids didn't see or feel those acts of charity. I held the door for others, and I always said thank you to people who waited on me, but I had neither talked about it with nor required my kids to do the same.
And frankly, the thought of doing one. more. thing. was daunting to me. I was working full time outside the home, and I was gone for long hours every day, and I was spent.
I didn't know where to start, but I knew I had to start somewhere because the alternative was that my daughter would grow up without growing at all. I couldn't let her go on being greedy and feeling entitled because, let's face it: we all know at least one adult who feels like the world owes her, and those people are not pleasant to be around. Nobody wants to raise a kid like that; it would feel like a giant parenting failure.
So what I did was to create a set of 78 random acts of kindness cards for kids. These cards are nice to look at (full color and attractively designed), and they are all things that kids can do, like holding an elevator or door, weeding the neighbor's garden (with permission, of course), making kindness rocks. Some of the items require a little parental involvement, but a lot of them don't: they're simple gestures that kids can own themselves.
How I used kindness cards in my own family
I printed this set of 78 cards and asked my daughters to help me choose 14 to focus on as a family. They were happy to help and suggested the cards that they wanted to do (not surprisingly, they picked the easiest and least sacrificing, but we're taking baby steps here). Here's what they picked:
- Return someone else's shopping cart.
- Bring the neighbor's trash cans up their driveway.
- Smile at a stranger.
- Give a hug to someone you love.
- Read a book to a sibling.
- Offer to carry a bag of groceries.
- Leave a treat in the mailbox for the mail carrier.
- Put a sticky note on a public mirror that says "You are beautiful!"
- Drop a quarter into an expired parking meter.
- Hold the door.
- Let someone go ahead of you.
- Hold the elevator.
- Leave change in a vending machine.
- Pick up trash.
After we chose our 14 cards, we discussed that we would be doing a 14 day kindness challenge. We had 14 days to complete all 14 cards, and once we did, we would get a reward. (Our reward was going out for ice cream because - no more toys or physical rewards!) I know that the reward should be a good feeling and there should be internal motivation to do more good deeds, but when you're first getting started, an external reward gets momentum going in the right direction.
I'm pleased to tell you that my kids completed their 14 day challenge in 12 days and got their ice cream treat, but what's more important is that their acts of kindness continued long after the 12 days passed. They started looking for nice things to do for other people. Being extra kind had become a habit, and it was a habit that gathered steam the more they practiced.
I wish I could tell you that this 14 day kindness challenge forever changed my kids's attitudes and ended their entitled behavior. It did, but it didn't. The one who was greedy is still greedy, and she still looks for her treat whenever we go to a store. But she also looks out for others and is quick to find an opportunity to help people out. So while it didn't totally end the entitlement, it made her more open and willing to see the needs of other people, and that was my goal.
How to do a 14 day kindness challenge with your kids
- Save and print the kindness cards. (Use cardstock to make them more durable.)
- Work with your kids to select cards to focus on for the next 2 weeks.
- Challenge your kids to complete each card in the allotted time frame. Offer them a small reward if they can do it.
- Sit back and wait, encouraging them to remember their cards and work to complete each one. They will need reminders and encouragement, so be prepared.
- When the challenge is over, talk about how they did and what they accomplished and how being kind made them feel.
- Optional and more difficult - help them to choose another 7 or 14 cards to extend the challenge and again offer some kind of reward for completion. But the key this time is that the first 14 cards are off limits! (Not that you want them to quit doing those behaviors, but just that the new challenge requires new behaviors.)
I can't wait to hear how this challenge goes for your kids and hear about all the ways in which they are learning to be kind. Be sure to come back and share in the comments below.