When our children were tiny, my friends and I worried about all we needed to teach them: how to use a fork, how to hold a pencil, how to tie their shoes. Now that our children are growing, though, we worry about even bigger responsibilities, one in particular. How do we teach our children about kindness and love? It isn't as easy as helping them memorize the alphabet song or a handful of sight words.
I tell my children I love them all the time, but as with most things with children, the words alone are not enough. Children are sponges; they learn by what they see, feel, and hear. When I buy a new book for my sixth grader just because I know he will love it, I teach him how to love. When I lie in the dark on the floor next to my sick 6-year-old's bed, ready to be there if he needs me, I teach him how to love. When I give the baby half my ice cream cone, I teach her how to love.
My children learn to be kind by listening to the way I speak -- and by the way I do not speak. They learn kindness when I don't blame them for dropping and breaking a plate on the floor. They learn kindness when I make sure their favorite shirts are clean and ready for a special day. They learn kindness when I help them pick out a thoughtful gift for their teachers or their friends.
To love and to be kind takes action, every day. Therefore, I try to teach my children that love is a verb, always -- and I do it by showing them, not telling them.
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