photo by Glenn Fleishman
Have you ever made the suggestion to one of your children to do something kind for one of their siblings, only to get a blank stare in return? And then did you find yourself trying to justify the request? It kind of becomes a smorgasbord of multiple choice - the ol’ you-would-be-pleasing-God-it’s-a-nice-thing-to-do-wouldn’t-you-want-your-brother/sister-to-do-the-same-for-you kind of rationalization. By the end of the conversation, you almost feel like apologizing for having brought it up in the first place.
Selflessness is not an easy concept to teach, and an even more difficult virtue to apply to one’s life. How do you teach a child to die to himself daily when he’s the most important thing in his whole world?
Using object lessons produces more concrete understanding than simply explaining a concept. Here’s a fun way to teach the virtue of kindness to everyone in your family: A Be Kind To (______) Day.
During a family meeting explain that you’re going to implement a special, fun, new activity. Once a week for the next (however many people are in your family) weeks, one person is going to have a designated day where everyone in the family dotes kindness on him or her. The acts are to be unconditional (I’ll clean the bathroom for you on your day if you do my homework on mine) and not self-affirming (aren’t I a good son/brother/daughter/sister for doing this?).
You may need to provide some suggestions. Help your kids see what it is that speaks love to the designated recipient. Do they treasure hugs and back rubs? Do they appreciate encouraging words in a note or conversation? Would they enjoy playing one of their favorite games? Perhaps a gift of their very favorite candy bar or cooking a much loved dessert would go a long way (these are based on the five love languages of physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts and acts of service).
Pick a person and a date to start the activity. Each week, integrate another family member into the plan. Provide guidance, encouragement and helpful suggestions along the way to your children.
At the end of the scheduled time, call another family meeting to discuss thoughts, feelings and comments. How did it feel to be the recipient of genuine kindness from others in the family? Were there any challenges in offering an act of kindness? Did someone find it difficult to give generously of themselves, or did the recipient have a hard time cordially receiving kindness?
Then it’s time to bring in what God has to say about such things (although you may have been teaching from the Bible throughout the weeks of kindness while you coached and encouraged your children). Here are some verses that you may find helpful for discussing:
- “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does….” Ephesians 6:7
- “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5
- “Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.” Psalm 112:5
- “He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.” Proverbs 14:21
- “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation….” Philippians 2:14-15
You may find this activity becomes quite the hit in your home, and that everyone wants to continue the practice. Good! Charity should begin at home. Eventually the purposeful acts on a designated day will bleed over to random acts at any given moment, a sure sign that kindness and charity are becoming a wonderful fruit of the faith your family has.
Share a random act of kindness done for you that made an impact by leaving a comment. How could your child learn from that?