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Kindness is trendy lately. Groups like Kindness.org, The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, and Acts of Kindness all share videos and memes daily promoting the idea that “Sometimes it only takes one act of kindness and caring to change a person’s life” and “I’m here … for you.” We see these videos and cry over them, share them with our friends, vow to be exactly like the guy in the coffee shop who took the homeless man home for dinner or gave the frazzled waiter a $300 tip. And yet … many of us aren’t changed by these bits of inspiration. Why? Because being kind is sometimes hard, and it takes risk, especially with strangers.
Like anything in life, the more we practice something the better we get at it. While it’s natural to think we are kinder to those we love and see every day, the frustrations of life sometimes get in the way and it’s not always the case. So why not make 2018 the year you start our own kindness initiative … beginning right in your own home. With genuine practice day in and day out you can take these habits to the wider world. Here are some suggestions:
1. Use manners more
Common courtesy seems to be on the way out in many places, but manners are one of the vestiges of humility and kindness still worth preserving, both at home and in public. Use “please,” “thank you” and “your welcome” at every opportunity — when your husband hands you the remote, when you ask your child to brush his teeth or pick up the toys; the goal is to make these phrases part of your kids’ verbal DNA, and you want them to be automatic for yourself — yes, even that brusque checkout cashier deserves the grace of a “have a nice day,” even if you don’t think he deserves it.
2. Yell less
If you have kids, this is a tough one. Even the most patient parent in the world loses it every once in a while, or many times in a while. Things get stressful, people get late, schedules get boggled, tests get failed, and fridges run empty, especially in big families. Research has shown that yelling in all forms, from general nagging to insults and humiliation, is not benign — it’s damaging and leads to behavior problems later on. So take a deep breath, count to five, and speak calmly and with love.
3. Spend less time on your phone (and more time with them)
Your time is perhaps the most valuable thing you can give to anyone, so why not start with your kids? Log out of Facebook and forget about checking the latest news alerts till later. Being present is being loving.
4. Look for small kindness “opportunities”
Service is a great way to instill kindness in your kids, but it doesn’t have to involve a big organized effort. Bring a bag with you next time you go on a walk in the park and pick up litter, or help an elderly woman with her bags at the grocery store.
5. Stop road raging
We should practice being kind, even when the other person is “anonymous” — case in point, in the car. With incidents like this scary(warning — disturbing language), it’s no wonder why kindness has a tough time surviving on the roadways. Buck this trend, especially when your kids are in the car. The next time you get cut off (and you will), be compassionate and tell your kids it’s important to give the driver the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she’s late picking up her toddler at day care, or he’s rushing off to a family emergency. You don’t know and it really doesn’t matter … you should be kind whether others are or not.
6. Share a daily act of “kindness” at the dinner table
Ask everyone to share something “kind” they did that day, however big or small. If someone doesn’t have anything to offer, they’ll be inspired to make sure they make the effort to come to the table with something the next day. Kindness is addictive, after all.
4 Rules for criticizing with kindness
The boy who became a saint through simple kindness and courtesy