A great way to get kids to make good choices on their own is to Make a Kindness Jar! With 9 & 10 year old siblings, a fair amount of bickering and unkindness occurs in our household. Having tried (and failed) a variety of different ideas, we came across an idea last year that helped them keep kindness top of mind. Inspired by this Good Deed Jar, we took the idea of a Kindness Jar and made it our own.
This peaceful parenting idea is also a great time to review and implement our tips for Teaching Kids Self Control. A few weeks before Easter, we set out a bowl of beans. For each act of kindness that anyone in the family witnessed or performed, a bean was placed in our Kindness Jar. For each unkind word or act, two beans were taken out and placed back in the bowl.
Before we started, we had a fantastic discussion of what acting in love looks like at every age.
For my toddler it could mean:
- Helping Mommy pick up his toys
- Saying thank you
- Giving hugs
For my big kids it could mean:
- Not arguing with their siblings
- Paying someone a compliment
- Helping their teacher at school
- Doing a chore without being asked to
- Holding a door open for a stranger at a store
- Helping the neighbors take their garbage cans in
For Mom & Dad it could mean:
- Putting a special note in their lunch
- Taking a meal to a friend
Make a Kindness Jar for Kids
The twist to take the beans out was added to show them that unkindness does a lot more damage than one small act of kindness. And that it takes a pattern of acting in love, to build up something big, like character.
Of course, the first few days, my kids were on their best behavior, noticing all that everyone did (and then some) in the hopes to earn as many beans as possible. But as time went on, they forgot about the potential to earn and started to act nicely towards one another. I would over hear them working together to help their younger brother build a train track (2 beans one for each!) and see them pull our neighbors garbage can up the driveway (out of the blue!).
Only occasionally did beans have to be taken out of the jar.
When Easter came, the beans that were in the Kindness Jar magically turned into jelly beans overnight! We took this fun opportunity to discuss over Easter Dinner how it felt to do an act of love and service, what did others do in response to their kindness, and asked them both to continue.
My hope is that the Kindness Jar encouraged my kids to act kindly in a genuine way and helped show them the rewards that being kind to one another can give.