I want to help my children become kind, courteous, self-less little people who put one another other first. Nobody pinch me, I know I’m dreaming!! But if there were ever a dream worthy of pursuit, this would be it.
Being courteous isn’t much of a challenge when it is to those outside the home, but sometimes we take for granted those we love most, and instead of showing them our greatest efforts, courteous kindness and loving consideration, we give them less effort than we would a stranger.
Occasionally we need a little help remembering to express thanks, show kindness and sacrificial love to our family. Imagine a home where spouses put each others needs first, and children were polite to one another, that would make home the sweetest haven. That makes our character one of the most important elements of making this house a home. Not as easy as giving a room a makeover, or organizing our space or time, but even more important to “get in order”!
Ok, I will take a moment to be vulnerable and bear my soul, to address something I believe is the most important part to accomplishing this dream for our children: our own example.
Since children tend to be “mini-me’s”, the greatest obstacle I have found in cultivating these positive traits is my own selfishness. *Sigh* Don’t get me wrong, I can be very sweet and I am always polite, I have done many charitable acts for others, it is when there is no perceived reciprocation, or someone appears to take my kindnesses “for granted” that I become selfish and turn inward. Yep, my silly brain tells me foolish things like “if you do these nice little acts for people they will expect it all the time, and worst walk all over you! You have to protect and take care of YOU since nobody else will!”, and thus begins the cycle of selfishness executed with the air of martyrdom spurred on by a false justification. Of course, all this starts on the inside, but eventually these ideas seep into our actions. So no matter what others may or may not do for you, never allow it to be an excuse to repay with harsh words or selfish action.
That being said, I admit I am a definite “work-in-progress”, and must make sure my impressionable mini-me’s have a good example. Kind courteous acts and words begin with us. When our children see mom and dad being sweet, tender, courteous, and kind to others as well as one another without reserve, they will follow suit. Start early, love much!
The Plan: The “Thank You” Jar
So I had this crazy idea for a project that just might help train my kids in kindness! I know, you’re saying seriously, you organize and create projects to train?? I told you I believed in the power of an organized life! *cheesy grin*
In addition to teaching, and giving correction when my child does something mean or acts selfishly to a sibling, I wanted to encourage positive responses through positive reinforcement. Thus the Thank You Jar has emerged.
The jar is kept stocked with cards containing some nice little treat inside. Some have healthy candy, a tiny toy, or stickers, anything that would appeal to the little ones.
When one of us notices a particularly kind and selfless act on the part of a family member, and we want to acknowledge it, we can then take from the Thank You Jar and write them a little note to show our appreciation.
I keep the jar well stocked with exciting new goodies, some cheap cards I find from thrift stores, and a few blank cards for the girls to create their own card designs.Instead of me alone rewarding my children for selflessness, they can reward one another! In addition, they learn what I have had a hard time learning…to recognize and appreciate the little efforts of those around them.
Think of it as a year round Valentines Day or Thanksgiving Day. A selfless act, encourages and reciprocates another selfless act.
Since nothing substitutes for our personal example, I too use the “Thank You Jar”. I occasionally give a card to one of the children, or I can throw a little “love letter” in the hubby’s lunchbox.
Don’t stop there, take it a step farther, begin to do other acts of kindness and include your children in the process. Take the effort to make a special dish daddy will love, aid a child in volunteering to help his/her sibling clean up a mess just to be kind, show your children what it means to sacrifice your own wants and desires instead showing courteous kind deeds.
The card giving is only a jumping off point by which we practice awareness of these virtues, and begin to encourage it in deed.
Extend your kind deeds and gratefulness beyond the family circle. As a family brainstorm ways in which to show kindness or extend gratefulness to others you associate with.