Good grades, athletic prowess, perfectly put together outfits … mean little to my husband and me when it comes to our kids. Sure, any of those things are a bonus, but what we want more than anything for our girls is, truly, one trait. And that is kindness.
Until recently, I found that the best way for our girls to learn kindness was for them to witness us demonstrating kindness to others. While I still believe whole-heartedly in the power of modeling, another way to help the girls feel their kindness efforts more tangibly fell into my lap this summer.
While a dear friend and I were working out, she casually mentioned “heart-able jars.” Heart-able jars gather jewels (or other small objects – legos would work well also) for each time a child does something kind. It acts like any behavior reinforcement system (for example, a sticker chart) and after a certain amount of tiny objects are earned, a reward is given.
We sat down as a family and worked on the girls’ heart-able jars. Our primary goal was to make them aware of the times they are being kind and increase the number of times they are being kind to themselves and others. We chose three lines they needed to achieve and discussed their rewards together, opting for “experience rewards” over things.
When one of our girls reaches her first line, she gets a special parent/child trip somewhere (two chose Teskes and one chose the park.) When she reaches the second she gets a parent/child ice cream date. When she reaches the third she gets a two parent/child date night (somewhere “big” like the museum, a movie, the botanical center, paint your own pottery, the zoo, etc.)
Since instating the heart-able jars, we’ve noticed MANY acts of kindness in our home. While my two year-old had to be given ideas for what kind things she could do at first, the five and six year-olds became naturals quickly – getting one another’s water bottle or tooth brush or giving up the preferred cup at dinner for a sibling. I love catching them in the act of being kind and rewarding that with a gem. When I saw my oldest spontaneously take the hand of a crying peer on the first day of school and walk her into school as her new friend, I wanted to make it rain gems everywhere.
If we catch one of the girls being unkind to one another, we have, on occasion, taken a gem away. We try to use as much positive reinforcement as possible, so gems are rarely taken, but the point is driven home when they are. The girls can see how their kindness quickly adds up … but can be easily taken away also. My oldest recently had the idea of making a family “we can do hard things” jar that we all contribute to and this has been another fun way to measure all of the hard things we do on a daily basis.
Heart-able jars are catching on and friends are using them with great results also. The girls are quick to share their excitement after receiving gems and it’s fun to listen to them articulate just what they did to have a jar so full of kind acts.
Kindness breeds kindness and the rewards for being kind to others quickly become intrinsic. We love our heart-able jars and hope they are one step in raising kind children.