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Teaching Kindness

It’s almost the last thing we hear as we leave the worship service in church each week. The pastor instructs the people to “live in harmony with one another.” It’s an exhortation rooted in the last verse of Ephesians chapter 4, in which Saint Paul tells us to “Be kind and compassionate to one another.”

Kindness, compassion, and harmony do not seem to be a good fit in a society that places so much value on competition, assertiveness, and personal victory. Children do not automatically learn to be kind as they grow up. Nor is it their natural inclination. Children must be taught to be kind and compassionate.

Your children will learn kindness and compassion as you teach them about Jesus. Every Bible lesson has a central truth about God’s love for all mankind. Point to how Jesus demonstrated kindness and compassion in everything he did.

Children will also learn these characteristics as they see parents living in harmony with each other. They will adopt harmony as a personal value and make it an important part of their lives. As children see parents doing acts of kindness for others, they see the value of compassion. To teach kindness to your child, you will need to model it in your own life.

We can also teach our children how to show kindness by placing them into situations that will give them opportunities to demonstrate kindness to other people.

Using “please” and “thank you” as part of their vocabulary, befriending a hurt child or a defenseless classmate, or doing helpful things around the house are all acts of kindness. Kindness is also reinforced when parents teach their children to pray for others who are in need or trouble.

Children can also learn kindness and compassion by becoming involved in various volunteer activities. Your family can be part of a cleaning crew at church. Children may help buy food for a local food pantry. They can help an elderly neighbor transport groceries, cut the lawn, or wash the windows.

Parents need to let their children know how much their acts of kindness are appreciated. Compliments cost us nothing, and yet they are worth so much to the one who is waiting to hear that a job was done well.

The real secret is to continue to grow in your own capacity to be kind and compassionate to others. The motivation for living in harmony with others—for being kind and compassionate—is that these acts are ways of showing love for Jesus.

When you practice the skills and attitudes that are associated with kindness and compassion, you may not be giving your child a competitive edge in society, but it will demonstrate the love for the Lord Jesus that is in  their hearts.

12N2026_patientparentingFrom Patient Parenting, by John Juern. © 2006 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.