Thursday, May 24, 2012

Kindness week: Inspired by Scripture and Pinterest

"Kids! It's not polite to beg for three cookies when someone gives you two!"
"Don't hit him with the shovel! Take turns!"
"I understand that you like that bike too, but what is the KIND thing do right now? Will you share with your brother? Wait, no, don't hit him! SHARE!"
Sigh.

They fight like these guys:

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It's hard to teach kids to be kind to each other, isn't it?  We teach, we discipline, we tell them all about starving children in Africa, and still, they refuse to get their fat, greedy hand out of the cracker box so little brother can have some.

Why is this so hard?

The short answer: Sin. We know this. They are selfish little sinners like we are. We might not tackle our friends to get the last Oreo, but we do find our hearts angrily complaining when nap time ends early. (This time is MINE! Just turn on the TV or something and go away!)

Imagine what would happen if then you heard a sweet voice, gently prodding, "Now, Emily, what's the kind thing to do right now? Do you think you could share your time with the kids who need it, hmmmm?"
I don't think I would respond favorably.

It's hard to teach children to love.
It's almost as hard as loving them.

Yet, we are new creations. We are sinners, to be sure, but we are also righteous. We are redeemed, rescued, and He is making us new. We have been given all things necessary for life and godliness, including love, joy, patience, and kindness. We are loved by a God who pours these things out on us richly and daily, requiring nothing of us but that we come to Him with open hands and humble hearts.

We are blessed, and so we can bless.

God is kind, and His kindness makes us kind.

A focus on kindness
I've had this on my mind lately, this issue of kindness, of receiving it and giving it.

It has been mixing around in my head, along with Scripture and this book and that book and this book and a blog post and more Scripture

I kneaded it around in my head, and let it rise for awhile, and then finally, I was ready to try it.
At least, I thought I was.

The crazy idea: Kindness day
One day I said:
 “Hey kids, you know how we talked about being kind to others? Let’s plan a day of kindness, where we can do special things for some of the people that we know.”  Kindness to those outside one's own home tends to be easier, so I thought that would be a good place to start.
“Who do you think we should put on our list?” I asked.
They were inspired. 
“My teacher!"  
"Grandma! Grandpa!"
"All of our cousins!”


They got louder, and more excited, 
"My friend at school- 
ALL of my friends at school!" 
"Our neighbors!"
"Their neighbors, too!"
"Our dog!"
"Our church family!"
"Our family in Michigan!"
"Can we make cookies for everybody?"

I couldn’t write fast enough. After two minutes of this enthusiastic shouting, I was overwhelmed.


“Ok, kids, all we are going to do is make our list today.” 

I needed to do some more thinking.
(and I needed to hide in a quiet room for a few minutes.)

I did not want to chop up their list just because I was feeling overwhelmed. However, we simply couldn’t do something kind for every single person in the world.  

How are we going to do this?

Well, what do I want them to learn from this?
I worked on my own list.
I want them to practice kindness to others. 
I want them to learn to plan to be kind.
I want them to keep their eyes open for opportunities to give spontaneously, too.

Do I want them to end this week with a long list of their own good deeds?  
Hmmm. Not exactly.  
I want them to learn how to give as children of God, 
not keeping score, 
but freely, out of the abundance they have in Christ. 

Yes, that sounds good. 
Ok then, 
Perhaps I should point their eyes to Him first.

First, we receive.
We started kindness week on a Sunday. Before we went to church, I asked the kids to pay attention to the gifts God gives there. When we came home, we made a list: “Forgiveness, grace, Jesus, church family, soft hearts, faith, crackers at Sunday school, friends, Baptism, His Word, pastors, songs....”

 We wrote those words on blue water drops and hung them up. They poured down the wall into a cup labeled “Grace.”  We added to the list of God’s gifts to us throughout the week.

We watched as God filled our cup.

With full hands and full hearts, we were ready to move on to the next step. 

Then, we give.
We talked about ways that we could let God's gifts “spill over” onto other people. We got out the list again. We made plans. I trimmed the list, but only a little. We stretched kindness day into kindness week. I simplified where I could (brownies instead of cookies, notes instead of craft projects, and so forth.)
Each day at the breakfast table, we prayed:

Open my eyes to see Your kind gifts to me today. 
Show me ways that I can be kind to others. 
Bless me today, and make me a blessing to those around me. In Jesus name and by His power, Amen.

We kept track: gifts received, gifts given.
Record-keeping led to praise, and praise led to more giving.

It was so fun, I think we will do it again this summer.  




“From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”  
John 1:16


CLICK HERE for an easy guide 
planning your own kindness week! 
It's simple.
I promise.
I would not have been able to handle it otherwise.




How did it go?


Here are a few of the things we did.
On Monday, we made special notes for daddy and the kids made pictures for each other.

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We picked flowers for our neighbor.

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We baked bread for all of the teachers:

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The kids decorated lovely lunch bags for the bread, and they carried them to school the next day.  The teachers were surprised, and touched.

We made brownies for each child's class. (I decided brownies were much easier than cookies.)

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Brownies for everyone- just because!

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On Saturday, we focused on giving to strangers.
Of their own accord, the girls also chose to give away the new dolls they had just purchased with their own money. Two little girls were very appreciative. This mama was in awe.


We brought individually wrapped oreos to a local playground. 
I encouraged the kids to give them away.

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The results were interesting.
Two of my kids were eager to give to strangers.
Two were shy, but they did it anyway.
One hid by me the entire time.
One just ate the cookies I brought for them. But that one is just a baby, so that was fine with me.

The reaction was also interesting.
"Are you sure you're not selling these, little girl?" someone said.
A few strange looks.
One mother, "Excuse me, my son got one but not my daughter. Do you have any more?"
Me, encouraging all the little kids to ask their parents first if they could have them.
A few surprised and touched.
I realized the thought of allergies never occurred to me.  Oops.

Next time, I will choose something less controversial.
I'll buy a big roll of stickers.

I won't pretend this week changed our hearts completely. They fought in the van on the way home from our kind trip to town. They still fight over crackers.
But they want to do it again. They loved giving even more than I thought they would. They have been noticing and doing several unplanned acts of kindness since that week.

They have even found new ways to be kind to me:

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So daughter, what did you learn from kindness week?

"It's fun to be kind. 
And it makes you happy when you make someone else happy."


Great. I'll take it.


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What do you think about kindness week?
What other ideas do you have for teaching kindness to children?


I'd love to hear from you!
Don't forget to get your quick guide to Kindness Week!


And please, share this post if you like it! :)
Linked up here and here


29 comments:

  1. Wow, I absolutely love love love this! We are Zo going to have to try this in our small community!! Thanks guys for sharing.. I'll definately be linking our Kindness Week back to your blog!!

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    1. Wonderful! If you do it, I would love to hear all about it! Have fun... Of course you will!

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  2. What a wonderful idea...you have a true talent for planning REAL activities to celebrate God's love with kids...:) Michy

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  3. Aw, so great! The kids will remember this for a long time. Found you on the blog hop! Follow back at http://sassyshopperreviews.blogspot.com/ Have a great holiday weekend. :)

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    1. thank you for stopping by! I like your site too!

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  4. What a fantatic idea!! Thank you for sharing!!!

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    1. you are welcome Melissa! Good to see you again! :) Have a great holiday weekend!

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  5. Soooo very awesome!! I love this!!

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    1. If you do it, i'd love to hear how it goes! Thanks for coming by and I hope to see you again! :)

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  6. In a word: "Awesome!"

    Thank you for linking to Scripture Sunday - it's a pleasure hosting your link :D

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    1. Scripture Sunday is a great idea :) I'll see you again soon! :)

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  7. Great blog! Thanks for visiting me at Doorkeeper and on FB. Blessings!

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  8. Wow! What a great idea, and simple enough I may even be able to do it:)

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    1. I tried very hard to keep it simple... when things get to complicated I get overwhelmed and I quit! Let me know if you do it, i'd love to hear how it goes!

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  9. wow that is so cool! incredible idea!! I'm saving this post to do with my little guy when he gets a little older. just plain awesome.

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    1. I'm glad you like it! My older kids really got into it. My 3yr old and 1yr old just ate the cookies and whatnot. They liked it too, in their own way!

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  10. I am so happy you found my blog, which caused me to find your blog! This is such a great idea! Kindness week. So simple, yet so creative at the same time! The possibilities are limitless! We have been talking about kindess with our son lately so this will go along perfectly! Thank you!

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    1. Stephanie, I am glad you like the idea! Please let me know how it goes for you if you do it. I tried to keep it simple (in my life it has to be simple to be possible!) but there are plenty of ways you can improve on it, I'm sure!

      Have a great holiday weekend!

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  11. New Follower! Looking forward to reading more.
    Hope you will follow back!
    Daisy @ http://trendymomreviews.blogspot.com

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  12. I love devotional ideas. Thank you for sharing this on Saturday Show and Tell. I hope you'll be back this week.
    -Mackenzie
    http://www.cheeriosandlattes.com

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  13. You're being featured this week on Saturday Show & Tell! I'd love for you to share this also on Summer Activities for Toddlers Collection: http://www.cheeriosandlattes.com/summer-activities-for-toddlers/

    Thanks again!
    Mackenzie :)

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  14. Wish I had seen all of this before our kindness week. I don't normally ask people to come over to my site in comments, but I think you might be really interested in the character series we're doing - each week a new character trait with scripture and daily activities. Just thought I'd pass it along since our hearts are so similar. Thanks! Jodi www.meaningfulmama.com

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  15. What a fantastic idea! I love, love, love it. I struggle to teach my children to be kind to each other and to others outside our family. And, yes, I struggle to be kind myself. I think this activity would really impress itself upon the little hearts here (and the bigger ones too). Thank you so much for sharing and for linking up with NOBH! Smiles -

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    1. I'm glad you like it! Please let me know if you give it a try! :)

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  16. All I can do is echo everyone else's responses. What a fabulous idea! I just love the focus on kindness, on looking to showering grace and love on others. And your graphic of the rain drops on the wall made me all misty eyed. :-)

    Isn't it always amazing that we find what we seek? When we look for what is wrong we will most certainly find it, and the wonderfulness is that the exact opposite is true as well.

    Thank you so much for starting my day with such a joyful idea!

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    1. Yes, it is amazing.
      And we can only give what we have... how easy I forget this! We receive from God- we learn to love and He give us His love and that is what makes us able to love others!

      I don't know why I forget this so easily, and try to squeeze the kindness out of my own dry heart instead!

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  17. This was an AMAZING idea!! I will definitely be using this in our home. Thank you for sharing this. Thank you also for linking up with Legacy Leaver Thursdays, it was so good to see you there!

    Blessings~
    Shari

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    1. Thanks so much for the link-up opportunity! I hope to see you again! And let me know if you do kindness week- I'd love to hear from you if you do!

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  18. Thank you for linking up! We plan on doing kindness week in a couple weeks before the kids go back to school. I love your blog! Are you on Facebook? I would love to follow you there. Hope you can link up next week, I would love to see you there.

    Blessings~
    Shari

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