One Easy Step for Raising Kind Kids: The Family Kindness Journal
Once you have kids, your own hopes and dreams expand from thinking about the person you want to become, to now include how you hope your children’s lives might turn out.
You hope that they’ll find success, whatever that may mean to you. You hope that they’re strong and confident. You hope that they find a path that is right for them and that they are well loved. You may even hope for something specific, like dreaming that they’ll learn to play the piano amazingly well or design something that changes the world.
In amongst all those hopes and dreams about our kids, it’s safe to say that most of us also share this one: we hope that our children are kind.
For one thing, raising kind kids would certainly make this whole parenting thing a lot easier. Don’t we all yearn for a home in which everyone gets along, where any problems are solved with a heartfelt conversation at the edge of the bed, a la Full House?
But raising kids who are kind is important beyond our homes, as well. With atrocities bombarding us in the headlines each day—outrages ranging from the interpersonal level to a global scale—raising kind human beings seems more important today than ever.
But how to do it? How do we raise kids who value practicing kindness to others?
Without any clear guidance, this can seem intimidating at first—but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it can start with one simple activity that you can do at home—keeping a Family Kindness Journal.
What It Is & How to Do It
A few years ago, it felt like my family was in a bit of a rut—a period of time in which it seemed like the kids were constantly on each other’s nerves, and despite whatever my wife and I were doing to handle it, things weren’t getting any better. You might have experienced something like this, too, from time to time.
But then my wife, Monica, came up with the idea of the Family Kindness Journal, and we saw an immediate impact in our home.
The idea is simple: Designate any notebook or journal (like this one) as your Family Kindness Journal and keep it someplace that’s easily accessible, like the kitchen or a living room bookshelf. Then, every time someone in the family does something kind for another family member, gather everyone present and write the event down. Note the date and describe what the kind act was.
What you decide to highlight doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering, just an act or moment of kindness between members of your family.
Here are some examples from my family’s journal:
April 24th, 2012: Addie helped Cole take off his shoes and coat when we got back from a walk to the playground.
April 21st, 2014: The whole family worked together on a puzzle. Cole had the last piece in his hand and gave it to Addie so she could be the one to finish the puzzle.
March 19th, 2015: Cole helped Addie unbuckle her carseat when her hands were full.
Again, nothing extraordinarily remarkable, but each moment special in its own way. Taken as a whole, the entries in your Family Kindness Journal—plus the process itself of writing in it and reading through it together—can have a profound effect on planting the seeds of kindness in your family.
Why It Works
Beneath the simplicity of the Family Kindness Journal lie several key features that are helpful to you and your children:
- It teaches your kids what’s important to your family. This is perhaps the most significant feature of all. The ceremony of writing these events down and gathering together to read through them emphasizes to your children that being kind to others is something that your family values. The fact that not only do you stop to point out a good deed, you also think it’s important enough to write down, speaks volumes to your kids.
- It’s an opportunity for reflection. Taking a few moments to pause and write down kind acts provides your kids with an opportunity to stop and reflect on what they do; it inspires them to actively think and recognize that their actions have an impact on other people in their lives.
- It’s a useful tool when times are tough. If you feel like your family is in a rut and tensions are flaring—when there simply haven’t been any glimmers of kindness at home in a while—the Family Kindness Journal can come to the rescue. Pulling the journal out and looking through it as a family is a good way to calm things down and reset perspective—not as a mere distraction, but as a reminder of how much everyone in the family means to each other. Plus, after making a point to record new entries over several days, you may notice that the mood and behavior in your home change for the better.
- It’s something to cherish. As parents, we often regret how quickly our kids seem to grow up. There are so many moments that go by that we wish we could remember, but never do. The Family Kindness Journal is a heartwarming, homemade keepsake that can preserve the best of day-to-day memories for you to treasure later.
The Family Kindness Journal is a simple, effective way to bolster your efforts toward raising kind kids. It’s low-cost, and while the effort required is minimal, it’s sure to be effort that you enjoy, highlighting many of the good moments you experience in your family.
And along the way, your kids will learn that your family values being kind to others—a value that is sure to have a meaningful impact on your children’s lives and the world around them.