Do you remember how you met your childhood best friend? Not where or when you met them, but how you met them?
Did you bond over a favorite crayon or say “hi” at the swings? Maybe they invited you to their lunch table in the cafeteria? As with any relationship, friendships start with kindness.
Where do children learn these important life lessons?
Children mimic what they see IRL, but books are also a great resource to help model important qualities of friendship like kindness, compassion, generosity, and self-esteem.
First Book’s mission focuses on educator support to provide equal access to education; however, many of our resources also support families. Our guides and resources support a variety of topics, including friendship and emotional development. These books would be a great addition to a classroom or home library.
First Book's Friendship Book Picks
To celebrate July’s Big Heart World Friendship theme, our title selection team has hand-picked five picture books that are ideal for children in pre-kindergarten through second grade.
Eligible educators, supporting Title I schools and organizations, can shop this collection on our Marketplace for brand-new books at a reduced cost. Families can shop these titles and support First Book through Bookshop.org.
This week, my four-year-old daughter, Abigail Rose, told me that her best friend had punched her at school. I asked if she had told her teacher what happened and she said yes, and that he had gotten in “big trouble” for what he did.
Rather than being pleased her friend had been disciplined, my daughter was sad about it.
“Mom, I asked Ms. Valerie if his time out could be over because he already said he was sorry, and I already forgave him and he’s my friend,” she told me.
My big-hearted baby girl is growing up so quickly and I am so proud of so many of the choices she makes every day:
choices to be kind, gracious, loving, and compassionate. No one is even allowed to kill a bug in her presence because she says that God put her in this world to help care for all creatures, big and small.
So, how did I ever get so lucky? Truly, I don’t think luck has anything to do with it.
Children, from the earliest age, begin to absorb everything around them. The things they see, feel, hear, and experience in their earliest years of life become a part of who they are and who they will one day become. Our children may not remember every moment of their early childhood, but what they will always remember is how we made them feel. How I treat them now is how they will grow up to treat others.
My Abby is incredibly sweet and a wonderful little human, but she is also sassy and spicy and she gives me a run for my money!
I see so much of myself in her and whenever she is giving me a hard time, I try my best to react in love because I know that on my hardest days, I need a little extra love, too.
When she cries because it’s clean up time and the floor is literally covered in toys to the point where you can no longer see the carpet underneath, I validate her feelings and we clean up together because I know how it feels to be overwhelmed. When she is on edge right before her dance recital, I try to remember that she has a tummy full of butterflies and I let her know that it is okay to be nervous and that I’ll be there to support her, no matter what. I live by the golden rule with my children, always keeping in mind how I might feel in their shoes.
My second child, August Rain, was born with a neural tube defect that completely turned our world upside-down. He had a major spinal surgery at four months old, multiple hospitalizations, and a variety of challenges that we faced together as a family in his first two years of life.
There were times I held my daughter as I cried over her baby brother and I would explain that Mommy was feeling sad and scared and that everyone feels those things sometimes but what’s important is that we talk to someone that can help us to feel better, that we cry when we need to and that we don’t try to hide how we feel. I do not hide my heart from my children, I share it with them.
I see now how those experiences have left life-long impressions on my daughter’s heart. Last week, I had a mini meltdown at my computer when August interrupted me for the 500th time while I was busy working and I just couldn’t hold back my tears any longer.
Abby came up and said, “It’s okay, Mommy, I’m here to help you feel better.” Oh, my heart.
Becoming a special needs mom has made me even more passionate about my mission to spread kindness by raising kind kids.
I believe that the best way to raise kids with big hearts is to parent with a big heart. We lead by example and it can be incredibly challenging to be that role model of grace and kindness all the time but when we see our babies growing into these amazing, compassionate little people, it is absolutely worth it.
An expert in cultivating kindness shares practical tips with Noggin parents.
Dr. Thomas Lickona wrote the book on raising kind kids: How to Raise Kind Kids. Now he’s sharing some winning strategies that Noggin families can try to power up kindness in their own homes.
“You can coach kindness just like you would coach a sport,” he said. “You have to do it patiently. You have to demonstrate it, and then you give your child a chance to imitate what you’ve just demonstrated. Then you have to practice it, give positive, encouraging feedback, and then gradually back off and watch them do it with less help.”
Here are 11 specific ideas that Dr. Lickona (very kindly!) shared with Noggin:
1. Talk the Talk!
Research shows that when parents tell kids they are “kind” and “generous” people (rather than praising a behavior as kind), kids start to think of themselves as kind people. Dr. Lickona explains, “They take pride in being that sort of person, the kind of person who shares, the sort of person who is generous.” Try saying: “You are such a kind big brother to help your sister find her teddy bear” or “You are a generous person! That’s why you shared your cookie.”
2. Give Kids Real Responsibilities
Consider giving your kids one chore for each year of age to help them learn to take pride in being helpful. Dr. Lickona notes that being helpful is at the core of kindness: “It means being aware of others’ needs, noticing them, helping without being asked.” He said kids are capable of a lot more than parents might realize at home: they can help care for siblings, clear the table, make beds, sweep…
3. Set a Good Example
Be kind to your family members, your friends, and other people you interact with. Ask others how they are, listen, and offer to help. Kids are watching and will learn from your example.
4. Make Sure Your Kids Pay Attention to Your Good Example
Your kids are watching you…but make sure they understand what you’re doing and why. For example, if you donate to a local library, you could tell your child, “I love books because they help us learn and imagine, and I love our local library because it helps all kids find books they’ll love. When I can, I give money to the library to help more kids read great books!”
5. Create a Peace Table at Home
Create a “talk it out space” or “peace table” where family members can go to go to solve problems. When two people arrive at the table, they should take two deep breaths. Each should talk about what he or she wants. Then each person should talk together about what’s fair, and compromise. This will help your kids learn that it’s OK to have conflicts … and then work them out with kindness and respect.
6. Share Real-Life Examples of Kind Kids
Dr. Lickona said sharing stories of kind things other kids have done can inspire your kids to think creatively about how they can help. For example, he shared the story of a 4-year-old neuroblastoma patient, Alex Scott, who raised $2,000 with a lemonade stand in her front yard to help doctors find cures for kids battling cancer. That lemonade stand has turned into a non-profit cancer research organization that has funded nearly 1,000 research projects at 135 institutions.
7. Read/Watch Kindness Focused Stories
It’s important to model kindness for your kids — but it’s also important to expose them to stories and characters (from books, TV, or movies) that show kids the goodness in the world. “When you see all those different examples, you then start to have a conversation: ‘Well, what can we do? What can we do in our neighborhood? What can we do in our community?’”
8. Be a Family on a Mission
Dr. Lickona said creating a family mission statement highlighting kindness helps families create a higher sense of purpose. “It becomes your reference point as a family, something that guides you is everyday family life. You really develop a sense of who you are as a family, a shared sense of purpose, a shared identity: this is who we are as a family, we care about these things.”
9. Clean Up Your Neighborhood
When Dr. Lickona takes his grandkids for walks, he tells them there are three kinds of citizens: the kind who litters, the kind who never litters, and the kind who picks up litter to make the community clean and beautiful for everybody. “That becomes part of their identity,” he said. “You can do this kind of thing at a very early age. And the wonderful thing is that kids will take pleasure in it.”
10. Volunteer Together
Find local causes — from helping at a soup kitchen to cleaning up a local park — that matter to your family and volunteer together. Kids will remember the experience, and it will help them learn how to empathize with others.
11. Support a Cause You Care About
Dr. Lickona recommends designating three family jars for coins: spending, saving, and giving. Your child can help to pick a charity where they can donate the “giving” coins once the jar is full.
Are there any other ways YOUR family likes to teach your kids kindness? Share your tricks on Noggin’s Facebook!