How I’m Teaching My Kids to Be Kind to Themselves, One Link at a Time


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We’ve been building a kindness chain at home for the past two years. It started as a way to create awareness for my preschoolers, in all their ego-centric glory, of the many chances they have to do kind acts for other people. And, it has worked! They don’t get a link for every small deed they do, but if it’s been a while since they’ve gotten one, my daughter, in particular, asks if she can add a link to the chain. It’s become a part of our family culture, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

After two years in practice, though, I realized that our chain doesn’t cover a crucial part of kindness: being kind to oneself. Isn’t that how adults — moms, in particular — get ourselves in trouble? We prioritize the needs of everyone above ourselves and then attempt to claw back some “me time” for “self-care.” (I’ve come to detest those phrases.)

I want my kids to integrate healthy practices into their everyday routines right now so that it feels natural to do it even when they’re adults. I’m hoping the kindness chain will help me get this message across by acknowledging when they’re being kind to their own bodies, demonstrating grit, standing up for themselves, and maintaining life balance. 

Here are a few ways they can now earn links:

  • Eating healthy foods 
  • Choosing play/exercise over screentime
  • Listening to their bodies and acting on their needs instead of just whining about it (e.g. “I’m tired. Can I lay down?” or “I’m hungry. May I have something to eat?”) 
  • Asking for help (instead of getting frustrated/ crying or giving up)
  • Using their words to advocate for themselves (e.g. “Please stop interrupting me.”) 
  • Solving problems between themselves and reporting the solution to me (no more tattling or whining)

We’ll add these new links right to our existing chain so they see that treating themselves kindly is just as important as treating others this way. With even more opportunities to earn kindness links now, there’s no limit to how long their chain will be.

teaching kindness


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