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How to Raise Kind Kids by Thomas Lickona is a parenting book about the importance of raising kind kids. Kindness matters, even small acts of kindness can make a difference, and we should all promote the importance of kindness to our children. To make the point why this is important, this book starts by explaining the importance of treating people as you wish to be treated. Being Kind and treating other with kindness makes us happy. And who doesn’t wish that their children grow up to be happy and healthy adults?
The book continues to discuss what our capacity for kindness is, and shares the results of several studies surrounding babies and our natural inclinations around kindness and our sense of justice. The book went into a lot of detail of the studies that I found myself just skimming these chapters.
Before it got into what specifically we can do to raise our kids to be kind, the book first discussed things that make it difficult for us to raise kind kids. Examples being a culture of entitlement/ self centered, too much screen time, and our sexual culture including social media. Once again although these chapters were interesting, they were more informational, and when I’m reading parenting books I’m looking for more instructional text. I want the book to give me advice. I’m asking the question: What do I need to do?
So what advice does How to Raise Kind Kids give? Well first there was 6 principles to guide children to be kind. Then 4 virtues of kind children. I found all these lists a little confusing, but in the end I did come away with some good advice that I can put into practice in my own home.
The degree to which children were helpful to people, inside and outside the family, depended on the degree of which they were assigned responsibility that contributed to the maintenance of their family.How to Raise Kind Kids by Thomas Lickona
Strong Family Unit
The first thing this book discussed that I really liked was the importance of family. They recommended creating family values, something to display on the wall to remind your children how they are expected to behave. This was also mentioned in The Secrets of Happy Families and I think it is a very good idea. For my family values I would add things like, being honest, showing compassion and treat other nicely, and working hard towards our goals. Having family dinners and spending one on one time with your children is also important. If they have a close relationship with you, they will feel more comfortable to speak to you when they are having a difficult time, and will seek your approval. In another parenting book I read, it outlined the shift of children looking for parental approval to looking to their peers for approval, which causes bad decisions and behavior issues among kids. If you are spending lots of time with your children it will give you a chance to model the good behavior you are expecting from them. And hopeful when faced with a difficult situation they will consider what you would expect of them.
Give and Receive Respect
My next favourite advice that How to Raise Kind Kids had was the chapter on respect. It wasn’t just about getting respect from our children, but also about treating our kids with respect. This included things like showing interest in their lives. To get respect from our kids we need to make sure they know that you expect respect from them, And following through with this by insuring they are talking to you with respect in both their words and tone, and that any time they don’t there are clear consequences. And of course you have to be the example and make sure you are showing respect not just to them, but to people outside of the family.
We cant teach our children to be kind if we havent first taught them respect – starting with respect for us as their parents.How to Raise Kind Kids by Thomas Lickona
Positive Discipline Process
Discipline is an important part of raising kids. If we expect our kids to be kind, we need to make sure we are discipline them when they are not following our family values. How does this book suggest we disciple? First you have to make it very clear what your expect, so kids know they are doing wrong and are not surprised by your disapproval. When they slip up, treat it as that, and give them the chance to fix the behavior. Similar to advice in the book Mindful Discipline, we need to be flexible with our kids and consider context, and well as doing our best to set them up for success, (making sure they are not tired or hungry, being proactive, for example giving them warnings before activity changes)
You can actually gain authority and influence when you bring your child into a collaborative role.How to Raise Kind Kids by Thomas Lickona
The most popular advice that Ive read in almost every parenting book is, Give Your Children Choices. Even if there are only two options and they both have your desired outcoming, just the illusion of choice will make kids more receptive. The next popular advice Ive read in several places and was featured in this book is working with your kids. Making them part of the discipline process can make the whole experience go smoother. Ask them what they think the consequences should be when a family rule or bahaviour is broken. When something occurs that was not previously agreed upon ask, What do you think you can do to make this right? Consider the following quote from the book.
Putting your heads together to solve a problem or conflict is especially important for avoiding power struggles with strong willed children.How to Raise Kind Kids by Thomas Lickona
Pay Attention to their Digital Viewing Habits
The last thing this book advices to help raise kind kids is reducing screen time. As Ive heard many times, but find it very hard to implement, I should not allow my 2-3 year watch tv/tablet/phone more then an hour a day, but sometimes I need a break. Even if I cant/wont limit her to one hour (for my own sanity) there are other lots of things we can do to make sure we’re influencing and monitoring screen time.
- Keep an eye on your screen time. If Im always on my phone and not paying attention, then how can I expect different behavior from my kids? Some things we can do to help with this, is not allowing screens at the dinner table, or bedroom (for everyone). Putting down your phone when someone is talking to you. When you are doing group actives as a family, like playing a game, playing with toys, or making dinner then your phone should be away.
- In teens there is a connection between screen time and depression and anxiety. With social media, maintain the perfect identity can be exhausting and stressful. You are never alone/off, you are always connected. We need to teach our kids that their identity is not linked to social media. We need to teach our kids how to exist and be comfortable being offline. You should also have access to your kids social accounts so you can check if they are being polite and respectful online.
- Know what kids are watching, as it can influencing who they become. I used to have kids YouTube on my daughters tablet, but quickly took it off when I found she was watching things without me knowing the contents. She is now restricted to only watch shows I have approved and added downloaded. The same should go for video games, always check that a game is appropriate before letting your kids play it. There is a lot of violence and sexuality in games, that is not appropriate for young kids. We need to insure what are kids are watching and reading is promoting our values as a family.
Overall I liked this book. The advice it gave was solid, and logically backed by studies. The only issue I had is that it felt padded. They over described all the negative effects of things like sexuality, and screen time. It went into excessive detail on studies, where a summary would have been sufficient. And it had too many real life stories that I didn’t find useful. I quickly skimmed most of these parts above, and focused more on the solutions and advice given.