When I think about practicing caring or kindness, I usually think about some kind of grand gesture or donating to a larger cause, but that’s probably not the best way to teach kids how they can make a difference. It’s also helpful to remind myself that although one big gesture is amazing, it’s the smaller everyday acts of kindness that really count.
I want my kids to know that they don’t have to give up a toy or a ton of time to make a positive impact on someone’s day. Something easy to give like a compliment or a hug can make a big impact too.
This past week, I partnered with Hallmark to create a Caring Challenge for my kids. Something that helps them think about how to up their daily acts of caring.
Usually, at dinner, we go around the table and tell our “boo-hoos” and “woo-hoos,” which is one good thing that happened that day and one bad thing. I told Mazzy and Harlow that I wanted to add one more thing to that list. Everyone had to share something caring that they did for someone that day too.
“But what if we didn’t do anything?” Mazzy asked.
“I’m sure you did something. And if not, you could always do something caring during dinner, like tell Daddy you liked the salmon he cooked especially for you.”
“I did something caring today,” Harlow volunteered.
“What was it?”
“Thomas told Zachary that he didn’t want to be his friend anymore so I told Zachary that I would find him new friends.”
“That’s great, Harlow! That’s very caring.”
“But then Thomas said that he would be Zachary’s friend again so I didn’t actually have to do anything.”
“Well, it still counts as something caring because you were nice to him when he thought he lost a friend.”
Harlow looked very pleased with herself.
Next, we made a list of things that the girls could do that counted as acts of caring. We had everything from donating toys to a children’s hospital to sharing nicely with your sister. (Hint, hint.)
The next night at dinner, Harlow told me that she had given her counsellor lost of hugs today. Mazzy kind of joked around and avoided the question. Then we went to concert in the park and the girls wanted to bring cookies we had baked that afternoon to give out to their friends. “That’s a great act of caring!”
At the concert, after we had given cookies to the people we knew, Harlow asked if she could walk around and give cookies to kids we didn’t know too. I said, “sure” and followed her around asking parents if it was okay before she offered. You could tell that Harlow took great pride in what she was offering and I was impressed that she gave them all out, without feeling the need to save a few for herself.
Throughout the week, at dinner, Harlow would continually report hugs she’d given out at camp or a toy she had shared with a friend and Mazzy would somehow skirt the question. My daily challenge didn’t appear to be working on her.
The thing is— Mazzy is incredibly caring. She just doesn’t seem to recognize her actions, so I decided to write down stuff I noticed she was doing myself.
I started by creating Kindness Jar that would sit in the middle of our kitchen table. I told them that we would be filling the jar with slips of paper that said the caring things we did on them. When the jar filled to the top, we would do something special as a family. Harlow wanted to go out for ice cream and Mazzy requested a family movie night. I said that if and when we filled the jar, we could do both.
At the end of the week, I sat them both down with our jar. I had a pile of paper slips in front of me.
“What are those?” Mazzy asked.
“They are your acts of caring. I wrote them down and now we are going to fold them up and put them in the jar.”
“But those all must be Harlow’s! I didn’t do anything!” Mazzy’s face fell.
I told her she had plenty. “Just because you haven’t told me anything at dinner doesn’t mean that you haven’t been caring. I’ve been recording the things I’ve seen you do on my own.”
Mazzy picked up a piece of paper and read it out loud.
“Mazzy helped Harlow put on her pajamas.”
“I did do that,” she said.
“I know! That was very caring to Harlow plus it helped me out because it was one less thing I had to do while getting you guys ready for bed. That’s why it’s going in the jar.”
We read through each slip of paper and whoever’s act of caring it was, got to fold it up and put it in.
For Harlow, we had:
Gave counsellor lots of hugs
Made peanut butter cookies and gave them out to kids at the concert
Helped Zachary when he lost his friend
Gave daddy a big hug when he came home
Read book to Neve and entertained her at the picnic
Picked mom a bouquet of wild flowers
Told a relatable story when Mazzy was upset
Gave me a running hug at camp pick-up
For Mazzy, we had:
Helped Harlow get changed into her pajamas
Brought homemade cookies to friend’s family when she had a playdate
Picked cucumbers from the garden for her dad
Shared her iPad with Harlow
Helped Neve put on her shoes
Said thank you to her friend’s mom after a play date
Let Luke use her scooter
Complimented Allie on her hair
After I named each one, Mazzy seemed shocked that I had noticed. Or maybe she was more surprised with herself that she had actually done all of those things. Either way, I could see that having physical evidence was helping her appreciate the impact of each small act.
Later that evening, at the playground, a little girl fell off the swing and ran off crying to her daddy. Mazzy ran over to take the swing and I bristled a bit thinking that the girl might be planning to run right back over to continue swinging after she had calmed down. But before I could say anything, Mazzy yelled over to the girl and said, “Tell me when you are ready and I will give you back the swing.”
Then Mazzy glanced over at me and I nodded back. It was a silent acknowledgement between us— that was going in the kindness jar.
Typically this would be the part of the post where I say something like, “Caring Challenge. Complete.” But it’s not complete and it’s far from over. I’m hoping that realizing how easy it is to show you care is a lesson that sticks with the girls and that the Kindness Jar is part of our dinner routine from now on.
How do you encourage caring in your house? What are some acts of caring you’ve been proud to see your kids demonstrate? Share them in the comments below or post them with the hashtag #careenough.
This post was sponsored by Hallmark but Mazzy and Harlow’s acts of caring were all their own. Thank you to Hallmark for giving my family such a positive challenge!
I love that you wrote down the things you noticed as well….in this case helping Mazzy see that she shows more acts of caring than she realizes. I think for her it’s probably a thought of ‘it’s just what you do’ when it comes to being kind but everyone needs a reminder know that it’s still acts of kindness that you are showing and it touches people even when you don’t realize it. So sweet ❤️
I love this idea except for one thing- once you fill up the jar you do something fun as a family. Is it still kindness and caring if they’re only doing it to earn a reward? Doesn’t the reward take away the intrinsic motivation that you want children to have? Do you want them to grow up expecting a reward for every nice thing they do? I think that’s a big mistake that many parents make. Children don’t need rewards. I actually think you proved that in this experiment- I bet your kids would have done all those things without the promise of ice cream and a movie at the end.
This was one of your best posts! My kids do a lot of traditional charity things when it’s Christmas time, but I don’t always acknowledge their caring moments all year long. That’s a great habit for us as parents to get into!
This is a genius idea! I need to start doing this in my house because I’m pretty sure my kids have been plotting homicide towards each other all summer…
This is awesome! Definitely going to implement something similar at our house. Thank you!
This is a wonderful idea and so incredibly crucial to instill at this age. If you haven’t seen “13 Reasons Why” on Netflix give it a go sooner than later. It’s addicting and something I think all parents should see before their kids are teenagers (and then maybe watch along with them). Would love to know your thoughts on the series!…what I mostly gained: Being kind is important, but sometimes even more important is speaking up when someone else is being unkind (just like Harlow did)!
**Teaching your kids to be kind is important, but sometimes even more important is speaking up when someone else is being unkind. Sorry, just coming out of the 1st trimester blur…
We instituted our family Kindness Jar today – we’ve done similar things in the past but this post resonated with me to such an extent it felt like it must be time to try a new spin. Thanks for sharing – I feel inspired to look for the little things that the kids do that make a difference in a good way which switches up being the mom who is constantly finding fault, which I’m not but sometimes feels like I am. You can never have too much kindness….
Awesome lesson! Will be sharing this with the Thursday night kids that I teach Bible principals to. I disagree with Rachel’s comments about the kids wanting a reward for all the acts of kindness they perform. It actually makes the kids become a very caring person.