5 Simple Ways to Create a Culture of Kindness in Your Family

Last updated on September 30th, 2016 at 11:55 am

Kindness is making a comeback and we’re psyched!

How we got away from the simple pleasures of a neighborly wave to passersby, a nod to the old man on the street and an invitation to sit with others at the school band concert, we’re not quite sure. Yet, we’re happy that national organizations including GenerationOn, HandsOn, and Be Kind People are hosting online and in school events to bring kindness back to families and classrooms everywhere. We’ve just created Bloom Your Room™, the first social-emotional literacy program delivered as an art collection to share kindness worldwide.

The newest research shows us we can bridge what our children are learning about character, stewardship and caring from school to home by Creating Cultures of Kindness. Before we get to the “How-To’s,” let’s explore the “Whys”.

  1. Let’s Recognize That Every Family Has a Culture

Being-a-good-parenting-teamWhile we often spend much time choosing our children’s schools, engaging them in play activities and helping them learn along the way, we often don’t think about the fact that underneath every interaction with our children is our family culture. Your family culture is the manner in which you live, your belief systems, your aspirations and your way of being.

Having worked with many families, I observe that when family life feels rough or rocky, instead of working to solve the specific problem right away (my child won’t listen to me, my child has tantrums, my child refuses to do his homework) it’s super helpful to converse about and reflect on the foundation of the family first.

Since the culture of your family lays the foundation for how everyone in the family is expected to “be” with one another, when we clarify for the children what kind of family they live in and how the family agrees to live with one another, there is a natural shift toward a sense of security, meaning, purpose and calm.

  1. Let’s Talk About The Kind of Family You Wish To Live In

Let’s step all the way back to what kind of family you want to live in and why this is important to you. First, a few questions to get your thoughts flowing:

  • Do you want to live in a happy home?
  • Do you want to live in a peaceful home?
  • Do you want to live in a home where family members feel loved?
  • Do you want to live in a home where family members feel respected?
  • Do you want to live in a family where each individual thrives as their authentic self?

Now let’s go a little deeper. Since so much of parenting involves just taking care of what’s happening today – getting everyone dressed and off to school, making sure the shoes are on the right feet and starting your own day – there’s seldom space in our lives to take a deep breath and think about the big picture…what we’re here for, where we’re going together. So I’m going to ask you some of those longer-range questions right now. They are meant to help focus your thoughts and reveal to you what’s most important to your unique family. You might be surprised at what you discover.

Here goes:

  • Strengthening-family-bondsWhy do you exist? (That’s a biggie. How do you envision your purpose as an individual and as a parent?)
  • What’s really important to you?
  • Twenty years from now, what are you hoping that your children will say about you?
  • What will your children learn about life from you?
  • Who do you hope your children will become?
  • What kind of parent will you become?

We just did something fabulous together, we brought “front of mind” that you have purpose, you have vision, you have values. You have goals for yourself, your children and your family as a whole.

  1. Let’s Learn About The Power of Cognitive Conversations

Let’s explore simple ways you can connect with your children and create a culture in which you will lift one another up with peace, love and harmony.

Now that you have a vision of who you are and where you wish to go as a family, you can begin to talk about your vision with your children. I call this, “Having the Cognitive Conversation”.

“Cognitive Conversations” are thoughtful exchanges that go deeper than what kids are generally used to.  We have found that when we have “Cognitive Conversations” with children we get them thinking about what kindness is and how to practice more of it. Cognitive Conversations help children feel empowered as they begin to notice kind acts in themselves and in others. It’s motivating for children to experience being kind as less of a “to-do” and more of an “I want to BE.”

Let your children know that the discussions you are having are very special. They are Cognitive Conversations which speak to our entire being, beginning with the brain.  Then tell the kids, they are going to partner with their brains by saying this:

“Hey, listen up, Mr. Brain.”

“I’m going to need your help here.”

“We’re about to talk about, what you need to do Mr. Brain, in order to move us toward becoming whole, compassionate thriving social beings.” 

Young girl thinking with glowing brain illustration“Together, Mr. Brain you and I are going to talk about being kind.”

“Therefore, Mr. Brain, I need you to rev up your attention engine and really BE HERE for this conversation. ‘Cause we’re going to have a meaningful exchange about what we plan to do to achieve a very specific goal.”

“In this case, our goal is to create a culture in which we all want to live. We’re calling it – A Family Culture of Kindness.”

Kids love this! They love that they are talking to their own brains and becoming cognitive scientists, rather than just being the object of another social lesson. The words are big, the concepts are big and therefore, the kids experience that what is happening here is not the same ole…

Now you are all set-up and ready to go.  You are prepared to talk with your children about what kindness is, what kindness looks like and what their plans are to live with more kindness in their daily lives.

  1. Let’s Get The Kids Talking.
  • Talk with the kids about what kindness is. Instead of telling them what it is, ask them.

“Hey kids, we often hear, ‘Let’s be kind, help me out here, what does that mean to you?”  Help them generate ideas, build on one another’s viewpoints and summarize what they say in words everyone understands.

  • Talk with the kids about what kindness “looks like”.

“We’ve heard that kindness actually ‘looks like’ something, if you imagine someone being kind, describe for us what that looks like in our family.”

“What does your brain actually see?”

  • Talk with the kids about what kindness “sounds like”.

“Hey kids, did you know that being kind actually sounds like something?”

“Let’s imagine for a moment what kindness “sounds like” in our family.”

“What do you hear when someone is being kind?”

“What do you hear when someone is being unkind?”

“What does your brain actually hear?”

  1. Let’s Turn the Cognitive Conversation into Action.

Have some fun as a family writing down what you all have said. Keep notes of your ideas. Scribble, draw, or paint, make it all visible.  Once you can see all your ideas, take the next step and ask, “So what do you kids think about all this?” “What do our ideas tell us about what we’d like to improve in our family to be more kind? kindness-canWhat things might we do for others? Who do you know who needs more kindness, what shall we do for them?

See you’ve got it!  You are on your way 

….A little conversation, a bit of science, some mindful thinking and Voila! Your Culture of Kindness is in development, ready to grow and change as you do.

Live it, be it and enjoy your newfound kindness.

About the Author

Lynne Kenney, Psy.D., is a Harvard trained psychologist, a mother of two, an international educator, and pediatric psychologist in Scottsdale, AZ. Since 1985, Dr. Kenney has worked as an educator in community service from the inner cities of Los Angeles to national organizations such as The Neurological Health Foundation, Understood.org, HandsOn Phoenix, and Points of Light (Generation On). Dr. Kenney’s works include the Social-Emotional Literacy program Bloom Your Room™; Musical Thinking; Bloom: 50 things to say, think and do with anxious, angry and over-the-top-kids and 70 Play Activities For Better Thinking, Self-Regulation, Learning and Behavior. Learn more at www.lynnekenney.com. Lynne is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

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