The best way to help kids recognize the power of kindness is not by talking or reading about it but by actually experiencing it. Consider doing community service as a family. Families everywhere are taking time to volunteer their energy and resources to help make our world a better place. By watching their parents' examples, kids are catching their caring spirit and realizing their parents passionately value the trait of caring. There are dozens of ways to get involved, lend a hand, volunteer, or show you care. Food drives, picking up trash in the park, painting battered women's shelters, delivering meals to the homeless or a hospice, and tutoring are just a few ways to help kids feel the joy of kindness.
To find organizations in your area that appreciate volunteers, check the Yellow Pages of your phone book under "Social Service Organizations," and then call to see how you can help make a difference. Hint: It's best to try to match your kids' interests and strengths in any service project. For instance, if your kid loves the out-of-doors, then volunteer to plant flowers for a shelter; if she loves to sew, make quilts for a homeless shelter; if he enjoys sports, volunteer to help out at the Special Olympics.
Research by psychologists Elizabeth Midlarsky and James Bryan found that explaining to your child the specific way his act of kindness will benefit someone is effective in nurturing kindness. So look for kind behaviors that naturally occur during the day, and use them as great opportunities to discuss how they affected the recipients. The strategy that follows helps kids identify what the kind deed was and how the gesture made a positive difference. The acronym TIP helps you remember the three parts:
T— Tell who was the kindness recipient and describe his need.
I — identify what kindness was said or done. P— Point out how the kind gesture made a difference for the recipient.
Here are some examples of this TIP in action:
"Megan, you were kind to Bill when you helped him pick up his backpack. He was upset, and you made feel better." "Kara, you saw how upset your brother was because those boys were teasing him.You stood up for him."
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