ABOUT THE SERIES: This summer, I’m working on developing my kids’ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Each week, we’re focusing on a specific characteristic. Through this series, I’m giving you the books, discussion questions and action plans we’re using. This week: Teaching Kindness
Four words, courtesy of the late Michelle McNamara, basically summarize my worldview: “It’s chaos. Be kind.”
Every year, I have a specific plan intended to protect my children from the summer “brain drain”. I try to keep it fun, but the plan always involves daily reading minutes and math worksheets. (My kids don’t hate it as much as you’d think, especially when there are promises of ice cream cones and water parks when the work is done.)
This summer, though, I’ve decided to put at least as much effort into developing my kids’ character as I do their academic skills. I’ve decided to use the “fruits of the spirit” as a guide.
Christians may recognize these from Galatians, in which Paul describes the characteristics of a Holy Spirit-driven life. But you don’t have to be a Christian to recognize their worth:
Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control.
I mean, sheesh. If I can raise those kinds of kids, I won’t care too much what grade they get in Algebra, right?
So I’m changing it up a bit this summer. There will still be reading and math facts. But I’m shifting my focus from academics to raising good kids, fruits-of-the-spirit kind of kids.
Every week I am going to emphasize a new fruit of the spirit. My kids and I will read books and Bible verses about it, have a family discussion and then put that characteristic into practice — at home and in our community.
I have a Fill’er Up Cup, and every time I “catch” them being patient, kind, gentle and so on, they’ll get a marble in the jar. They also get 3 extra marbles for finishing each topic-related book we get from the library. When they’ve accumulated enough marbles, they’ll earn a reward of their choosing.
I’m starting with Teaching Kindness because, quite simply, if my kids would simply be kind to each other, at least half their battles would never occur. (Can I get an Amen, mamas?)
I’ll share what we’re doing each week — our books, our discussion questions, our projects — so you can use this at home with your own kids. And please comment below or send me any suggestions, and I’ll update this post accordingly!
(One note: We moms are already super-busy, yes? So I’ve designed this curriculum to be INCORPORATED into our lives, not as one more thing to do. So, for example, we already planned to read this summer. I’m just making sure to grab specific books each week related to that week’s topic.)
Book Selections for Teaching Kindness
(We’re making liberal use of our library cards!)
What Does It Mean To Be Kind? (PreK-1st grade), by Rana DiOrio
Most People (early elementary), by Michael Leannah
Wonder (upper elementary), by R. J. Palacio
Smile (middle school), by Raina Telgemeier
What Do You Stand For? For Teens, A Guide To Building Character (high school) by Barbara A. Lewis
A Man Called Ove (high school/adult), by Fredrik Backman
Discussion Questions for Teaching Kindness
How would you define or describe kindness?
What is the definition of kindness? (Look up in dictionary.)
Describe a time someone else has been kind to you. How did you feel?
When have you been kind to someone? What was their reaction? How did you feel?
When have you experienced UNkindness? How did you feel then?
What happens when we’re kind to each other? (Talk about specific examples, such as “My sister and I get to play together, instead of having toys taken away,” or, for older kids, it might be getting chores done faster so they have more free time with their friends.)
Summarize your discussion: So, when we’re kind to each other, we feel __________ and we get ______________ . (Side note: My 6-year-old, after I finished writing that sentence, read it to me: “So, when we’re kind to each other, we feel happy and we get friends. I filled in the spaces!”)
What are ways we can be kind at home? at school? in our community?
Action Plans for Teaching Kindness
(Here are some options in case you’re stuck. But I encourage you and your kids to pick your own. It’s more fun, and they’ll be way more engaged!)
At home: Volunteering for chores, letting your siblings have the first turn for games/electronics, giving each other hugs, simply asking each other “How can I help you today?”
At school: Smiling at and talking to a kid who doesn’t have many friends, asking a teacher/principal how you can help the school, picking up trash on the playground
In the community: Volunteer, hold a food drive, hold the door open for the person behind you, read to seniors, hold a lemonade stand and donate the proceeds to a charity