How My Son Is Holding Me Accountable for Being Kind

Feb 14, 2017

I blame Benjamin Franklin. 

I had stumbled down some kind of internet rabbit hole and found myself reviewing a copy of his daily "scheme". He started each day with a question: "What good shall I do this day?" And he ended each day with a second question: "What good have I done this day?" Given that I am constantly searching for ways to inspire kindness and empathy in my kids, I thought this was a nice item to include in the bedtime routine with my four-year old. After bath, after teeth, after jammies, after stories, after lights out — but BEFORE lullabies — I ask him: "What kind thing did you do today?" 

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He often needs help sorting out what kind thing he may have done that day, but there is always something to celebrate. He was kind to his younger brother when he shared a toy; he was kind to me when he wiped the edge of the bathtub dry so I could sit down; he was kind to his teacher when he gave her a nice compliment. And, if something doesn't easily come to mind, much to my surprise, he gets upset. His little voice, tinged with desperation, cries out in the darkness: "I didn't do anything kind today!" But we can always find something. 

And then it's my turn. Yeesh. 

The other night, I found myself saying "I held the door for a stranger" for what felt like the tenth night in a row. "I always say that, don't I?" 
"You need a new kind thing," he told me.
"I think you're right," I said.

He told me to put a reminder in my phone to do something kind the next day. So I did. And the next day, I brought a box of Timbits to share with my colleagues at a meeting.

I find myself searching for a 'kind thing' to do, so that I have something I'm proud of to report to my son.

It wasn't like I saved a kitten from a burning building, but I was proud to report my "kind thing" that night. He was pleased (and also shocked — "Your boss lets you share your snacks?!").

And now I find myself moving through my days searching for a "kind thing" that goes above and beyond usual daily niceties so that I have something I'm proud of to report to my son. And, sure, there are nights when all I have to report is that "I held the door for a stranger," and that's OK, but this little exercise has put kindness at the front of my brain in a way it never has been before. And that's a lovely task to have.

How are you helping your kids understand kindness and empathy?


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