5 little ways to encourage kindness

5 little ways to encourage kindness

There is a quote I love from Mr Rogers that talks about how, in times of crisis and tragedy, when the news of full of scary stories, we should look for the helpers.

In amongst all the chaos and sadness and fear there will always be helpers.  We’ll always find people bravely doing whatever they can to help and to care for others.

I think this is such a great message to send to our children.  Firstly for them to know that there will always be more good than bad out there.  And secondly for them to learn that they can be the helpers too.  They can grow up to be the ones jumping in, helping others, coming from a place of care and kindness.

It’s so important to me that my children are kind people, and if you feel the same way,  here are 5 things we can do as parents to teach our children about kindness.

5 little ways to encourage kindness

 

1. Talk about differences

It can feel really awkward when our children ask questions about other people who have disabilities or who simply look different to them.  Most of the time though these questions simply come from a genuine sense of curiosity about other people.  And they’re a great chance to start a conversation about our differences and our similarities.

Talking to our children about why people use wheelchairs for example can really help them understand the different experiences and challenges other people might face.  This then helps them be more empathetic to others, as well as being a chance to talk about how we can be kind and treat everyone with respect.

 

2. Be kind to the earth

Being kind goes further than doing nice things for other people. We need to teach our children to be kind to the planet too.  So talk to them as you sort through the recycling.  Explain why you’re doing it and how it benefits the earth.

Look for changes you can make in your own lifestyle to be more eco-conscious and talk these through with your children.  Give them reusable water bottles instead of plastic bottles of water when you go out for the day.  Wrap their sandwiches in reusable waxed wrap, rather than using cling film.  Talk to them about donating their old toys rather than just throwing them out.

 

3. Read them books about kindness

Find stories that feature the theme of kindness and read them to your children as often as possible.

Books are great ways to spark conversations about different topics and you can use them to help your children learn all about kindness and the different ways we can be kind.

It doesn’t have to just be books either. When you’re watching TV with them look out for story-lines about kindness and point out to your children how great it is when characters do something kind and thoughtful, and how happy it makes them and other people.

 

4. Do random acts of kindness with them

These can be really small but are a great way to get our children thinking about doing things for other people.

You can let someone go in front of you in the queue at the supermarket.  Leave some money taped to a vending machine for the next person to use.  Or simply leave notes around reminding people how great they are.

The beauty of these random acts of kindness is that they’re normally done in secret.  So we do them with no expectations of thanks or reward.  The reward is just that good feeling that comes from doing something nice and kind to brighten someone else’s day.

 

5. Set a good example

The most important thing we can do as parents, if we want our children to be kind, is to be kind ourselves.

Be kind to your children.  Let them see you be kind to your partner and to your parents.

When you’re out walking with your children, smile and say ‘hello’ to people you pass.

Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to the bus driver, the cashier at the supermarket, the person who holds a door open for you.

Bake cakes with your children for the school cake sale and take them with you to buy flowers for your neighbour who’s been unwell.

Children will soak up all these little acts of kindness, compassion and caring and learn to go out into the world and act the same way.

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

 

 

Getting your child to be more active in the chillier months

Getting your child to be more active in the chillier months

When winter time comes around, it’s very easy to get snuggled up on the sofa and not move for three or four months. Getting up in the dark, shivering cold mornings and generally greyer days mean we all wish we could stay in bed and forget about leaving the house.

Naturally, getting up and about, doing some exercise and keeping yourself fit can get a bit lost during this time, and that goes for both you and the kids. Your children are just as likely to want to stay in front of the TV as you are, so what can you be doing to keep them active, engaged and entertained in the colder months?

Getting your child to be more active in the chillier months

 

Get Out in the Snow

We all have wonderful childhood memories of playing in the snow, whether it be hurtling down a hill on a rickety sledge, pelting each other with snowballs or building the snowman to defeat all snowmen. Having fun in the snow should be a part of any child’s growing up, and it’s also a great way to get your kids outside, enjoying themselves and getting some fresh air.

This one’s not too tough a sell either; the kids will be chomping at the bit to start having some fun. And if you’re a tad wary of sledging or snowball fights, there’s plenty of safer activities to be getting up to, like making snow angels or drawing in the snow.

 

Embrace Winter Sports

Take some inspiration from the Winter Olympics and introduce your children to winter sports. There’s plenty of unusual and super fun ones to try, and you never know, you might find your child has a liking or talent for one.

Ice skating is a great family activity for all to enjoy and doesn’t need to be taken too seriously. You could also try a snowboarding or skiing lesson, whether that’s on holiday or down at the local indoor slope. If you fancy something more high-octane, retailers like Proline Skates are making Ice Hockey more accessible than ever.

Embrace the winter as a time to try something new, and your kids could find something they absolutely love.

 

Ideas for Home

Of course, you need to think about how to keep things busy at home. Chances are the kids will happily sit on the PlayStation all day, every day if you let them, so you’ll do well to think of some fun games for the house as well.

Counter the video gaming obsession with an active game for you and the kids to enjoy. You should be able to find a fitness or dance based title for any of the popular consoles, and this will get everyone moving indoors as well as out.

Away from the TV, there’s lots of great indoor activity ideas out there to choose from. The good news is most of them won’t cost you a penny, and they’re a great excuse to get you and the children spending some quality time together.

 

Next time you see the cold weather closing in, see it as an opportunity to experience something new with the kids. Whether it’s sledging, skating or building an indoor fort, there’s potential to make some great memories.

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Try this little trick to get children to do what you ask

Try this little trick to get your children to do what you ask

If you feel like it’s always a battle to get your children to do the things you ask them to do then I have something interesting for you to try.

A lot of the time the reason children argue back and refuse to do as they’re asked is because they want to assert some control over the situation.  So the trick is to find ways for them to have some choices and some power, while still ultimately getting them to do what you need them to do.

This little trick in particular can increase the chances of your children doing the thing you’re asking them to do.

Try this little trick to get children to do what you ask

 

The trick is to use what is known as the ‘but you are free’ technique.

Basically this is where you ask your child to do something, then let them know that they’re free to say ‘no’ or do something else.  So if you’d like them to eat the peas on their plate you would say “I’d like you to eat your peas, but you’re free to leave them if you want”

 

It sounds a bit crazy, but just knowing they have the choice to say ‘no’ will make them more likely to actually do what it is you’d like them to do.

This has been proved time and time again in studies.

In fact a review of 42 different psychology studies, involving 22,000 people, suggested that this technique can double the chances of someone saying ‘yes’ and doing what we ask.

 

The theory is that when we phrase things like this, using the ‘but you are free’ technique, our children don’t feel as if their freedom to choose is being threatened.  They feel as if they still have the power to choose what to do, and so they’re less likely to push back on what they’re being asked to do.

 

Try it next time you want your child to tidy up their toys.

Instead of just telling them it’s time to put them away, you say “I would like you to tidy up your toys now, but you’re free to carry on playing”.  You might need to explain a bit about why you’d like them to tidy up now, but chances are they’ll stop playing quite quickly and start tidying up.

 

Now, it might not work every time.  Like with any parenting technique it depends on all sorts of factors.  Like the task you’re asking them to do, the thing you’re asking them to stop doing, right down to the mood they’re in that day.

But it has to be worth a try doesn’t it!

Be careful with the labels we give our children

Why we need to be careful of the labels we give our children

I had a parent/teacher consultation the other evening, discussing how Rhys is getting on in year 3.

One of the things we talked about was how he sometimes struggles with new pieces of work in class, because he’s not sure if he’ll be able to do them.  He was resistant to try a new piece of maths work recently.  And it was because he didn’t immediately know how to do it.

Once it had been explained to him and he understood what he was meant to be doing he was away.  But there was still this fear initially with him that he would find it too hard.

Which is interesting because he is good at maths.  His brain works in such a way that the order and logic of maths makes sense to him.  He can be quicker than me at times when it comes to doing mental arithmetic questions.

The thing is, I try to be so careful with the way I speak to him about this because I don’t want to just tell him ‘you’re good at maths’.  And this anxiety he’s showing about tackling new areas of maths is exactly why.

Why we need to be careful of the labels we give our children

 

See, the problem with giving a child a label of ‘good at maths’ is that it puts so much pressure on them to always, well, be good at maths.

They start to feel that they should always be able to do any maths problem easily, because they’re ‘good at maths’.  So if they’re faced with a question that they don’t understand, or don’t know how to solve, they feel bad.  They worry about not living up to this label.

 

So what I’m trying to make clear to Rhys is that while he may have a natural ability with maths he still needs to learn about it.  He will still find aspects of it hard.  He will still need to work on it and get things wrong sometimes before finding the right answer.

And that all of that is OK.

 

The impact of labels

The thing with labels though, is that it’s so easy to give them to our children without realising the impact it might have.

 

If your child is quiet at a birthday party, and wants to stay close to you for a bit rather than jumping straight in to the action, it can be so easy to explain to another parent that they’re just shy.

The problem comes when they hear this about themselves a few times it starts to become part of their story of who they are.  And that can take years to change.

They might miss out on so many fun opportunities because they start to believe that they’re too shy to join in.

 

So many children might never try something, or discover a new passion, because it doesn’t fit with the label they’ve been given.

The child who is ‘sporty’ might never realise how much they love painting, because it doesn’t match up with the story they tell about themselves as being someone who is active and rough and tumble.

On the other hand the ‘science-whizz’ may not know that they’re actually also really good at rugby, because their label of being academic tells them that sport isn’t for someone like them.

 

The power of labels

What’s really interesting is the power some labels can have to affect people’s behaviour.

There are some stories on this post about twins that mention the twin who was born first being labelled as a leader, while the second-born twin often gets labelled as being more laid-back.  Now, there is absolutely no reason why the twin who is born first would go on to be leader, the first of the two to try things and so on.  But it does seem that parents often give them this label, which then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Think about it, if you were told the whole time growing up that you were a leader you most likely would act that way.  You would take the initiative on things, be the one to make the first move and rally other people to follow your lead.  Even if that’s not your nature, you would end up acting that way because that’s the story you’ve been told about who you are.

 

The issue comes when that story, that label, conflicts with who we really are by nature.

And when we end up pigeon-holed by those labels, and it becomes incredibly hard to break away from them and pursue other interests and show different personality traits.

 

Encouraging our children without using labels

Once you start thinking about it it can be quite shocking to realise how much we label our children without really thinking about it.

But I don’t think that we need to watch every little thing we say.  None of us are perfect and we can’t expect to never say things to our children that we don’t mean to say.

 

What we do need to do though is be mindful of the messages we’re sending them on a regular basis.

We need to put the focus on to the effort they put in to their work.  We need to label the behaviour, the actions, the processes, and not the child.

Instead of telling them ‘you’re so good at maths’, we can talk positively about how hard they work to figure out the answers.  We can praise the strategies they use to solve the problems.  This shifts the focus from talents which they might feel they have no control over, to actions that they can work on and use again in the future to tackle different things.

 

If your toddlers hits another child at playgroup, don’t call them naughty or bad, explain to them that the action of hitting isn’t nice.  A child who is told repeatedly that they’re naughty is really likely to keep doing ‘naughty’ things because that’s who they believe they are.

 

If your child is good at football, don’t just tell them they’re a great footballer.  Tell them how great it is that they practice their skills all the time.  Talk to them about how they might have a natural flair for the sport but that it’s OK to still find some skills hard to master.  That with practice and perseverance it’ll get easier.

 

As parents it can really feel like we’re all just a bit doomed at times.  That no matter what we do we have the potential to screw up our children.  And I think we could drive ourselves crazy, worrying about how we word things every time we talk to our children.

So I think it’s important not to be down on ourselves too much about the times we don’t phrase things quite right.  We’re all just doing our best here, figuring it all out as we go along.

The key for me I think is just to try and make sure that the overall message my children hear is that they are so much more than just one trait, one talent, one label.

 

What are your thoughts on this?  Were you labelled as a child?  Do you think it had an impact on how you acted growing up, or the choices you made?

Get creative to get your children to cooperate with you

Get creative to get your children to cooperate

I think it’s pretty safe to say that every parent out there has battled with their children at some point to cooperate and do what they’re asked.

It might be that you want them to get their shoes on so you can leave the house.  Or brush their teeth before bed.  Or tidy up the toys that they’ve spread all over the living room.

Whatever the particular task is, when your child isn’t in the mood to do it it can be really hard to get them to cooperate.

There is something you can try though that will help make it more likely that they will cooperate with you.

Get creative to get your children to cooperate

 

If you can make the activity fun, and more like a game, there’s a far better chance your child will cooperate with you on it.

 

Lets say you have a toddler who doesn’t want to brush their teeth.

You could try to explain how important it is that they do it.  That the tooth fairy will be sad if they don’t look after their teeth.  You could promise them a trip to the park if they do it.  You could get frustrated and end up shouting and then feel bad.

Or you could get creative.

You could tell them a story about pirates that have stolen some treasure and the only way to help the princess get it back is by brushing their teeth.  Or you could come up with a silly tooth-brushing song that you sing each time, with special dance moves to go along with it.

 

The same thing goes if you want them to tidy up their toys.

Play them a special ‘tidy up time‘ song to make the whole thing more fun.  Or challenge them to see how quickly they can put all their toys back in the basket.  If you can make a game of it, rather than making it a chore, your child will be much more likely to cooperate with you.

 

You can use this technique for all sorts of things that your children might not always cooperate with you on.

  • Sing a fun song or play upbeat music while they get dressed for school in the morning.
  • Make a game of throwing their dirty clothes into the laundry basket.
  • Play catch as you practice times tables.
  • Tell them a story or act out scenes from their favourite film to keep them walking home from the shops.  We live up a hill and Nerys used to pretend to be Elsa running up the mountain singing ‘let it go’ to make it back to the house without complaining.
  • Challenge them to get their shoes and coat on before a timer runs out.

 

Whatever it is that you want your child to cooperate with, try to get creative and use your imagination to bring your child into a world of make-believe and play.

I’m not saying they’ll always go along with it.  But by making these tasks more fun there’s a much higher chance that they will cooperate.  And while you might not always be in the mood for singing and playing and being silly, going down that route is pretty much always going to be better than nagging and getting frustrated.

The games don’t need to be complicated, and your stories can be completely nonsensical.  It really doesn’t matter.  As long as your child is having fun and distracted from the reality of the boring task you’re asking them to do you’ll be on to a winner.

Try this trick for saying no to your child without them getting upset

Try this trick to say no to your child without them getting upset

One of the most exhausting parts of parenting toddlers and young children (other than being up half the night with them) is the constant requests.

Requests for snacks.  In particular bowls.  With a drink in that one special cup.

Requests for videos on YouTube.  Not that video.  The one they watched last Thursday.

Requests to go the park.  And the swimming pool.  And to soft play.

Requests for you to read their favourite book with them.  Again.  And again.

Some days it feels like it doesn’t stop.  And while a lot of the time we can happily say ‘yes’ and give them what they’re asking for, sometimes the answer has to be ‘no.

Try this trick to say no to your child without them getting upset

 

The thing is, children don’t really like hearing the word ‘no’.  It makes them feel upset.  Or angry.  Or both.

Which is valid to be fair.  No one really likes to be told ‘no’.  And if your toddler really wanted a snack in that special red bowl and you said no then they’re bound to be a bit frustrated by that.

There is something you can try though, to say ‘no’ in a way that has a much higher chance of a happy ending for everyone.

 

The trick is to say ‘no’ without actually saying the word ‘no’.

You can even do it by saying ‘yes’ instead.

 

What I mean is, if you child asks you for that snack but it’s 5 minutes from dinner time.

Instead of saying, ‘no, dinner’s nearly ready’ you can say ‘yes, but you need to eat your dinner first’.

 

Or if they are at your feet asking you to read that book to them while you sort the washing out.

You can tell them that yes, you will read the book to them but you need to finish sorting the washing first.  Instead of just giving them a flat ‘no’ or a vague ‘we’ll do it later’.

 

Even little children will understand if you give them a clear answer of what needs to be done first or instead of the thing they are asking to do.

 

For the most part anyway.

Of course there’ll be times when they still get upset and angry that you won’t give them what they want straight away.  But wording your responses like this really will keep the odds in your favour that they’ll accept it with less frustration.

Just cutting the word ‘no’ from your response can be enough to stop children from pushing and arguing back.

 

Do you find it hard to say no to your children?  Do you find they get really upset and frustrated when you do say no?

Give this trick a try and see if it helps you and your family!

Communicate better with your toddler

Try this one little trick to communicate better with your toddler

My children are 7 and very nearly 5 now, so it’s safe to say we are well and truly out of the toddler stage.

I do remember that stage well though.  And one of the things I remember is how hard and frustrating it can be at times to communicate with your toddler.  It can feel like they’re not listening to a word you’re saying, and it can be really difficult to work out what they’re trying to tell you at times.

This little trick though is brilliant for improving communication during the toddler years.

Try this one little trick to communicate better with your toddler

 

The best place to start with building better communication with your toddler is with mirroring.

This is basically just a way of letting them know that you’re listening to them, and that you understand how they’re feeling.  This then makes it far more likely that they’ll listen to you.

 

So let’s say it’s a cold day and you’re trying to get your toddler to put their coat on so you can walk to the shops.

And they’re having none of it.  They’re getting upset and angry and refusing to even entertain the idea of putting their coat on.

What you need to do is, firstly, take a few deep breaths.  Then get down on your child’s level and talk to them about why they don’t want to put the coat on.

Listen to what they have to say, and then basically repeat what they’ve said back to them.

If they tell you they’re too hot in their coat, you would reply with “I know, it feels hot when you put your coat on doesn’t it.  And that makes you feel a bit hot and bothered and uncomfortable”.

This both shows you’re listening to your child, and that you understand how they feel about the situation.

Once you’ve done this, they’ll hopefully calm down a bit knowing that you’re with them, rather than against them.  Then you can explain why they need to put the coat on.  Tell that while it’s hot in the house it’s really cold outside and so they’ll need their coat.

 

Now, this won’t necessarily work every single time.

But if you always make the time to really listen, and empathise with your toddler then there is a better chance they’ll listen to you in return.

There’s also the other benefit that listening to them and seeing things from their point of view might make you stop for a minute and question how important your request really is.

Does it actually matter if they put their coat on before you leave the house?!

Maybe you can just take it with you and they can put it on after a few minutes outside when they realise how chilly it actually is.

 

It can feel like a real battle at times when you have a toddler. 

But just keep in mind that it really is you and them together, with each, not against each other.

If you can work on seeing the world through their eyes and understanding their feelings and frustrations through this kind of active listening then you should be able to find a positive way to resolve most of these battles.