Monday, February 18, 2013


      They say, 'It is better to give than receive', but when you are a kid that doesn't sound like much fun.  After all, what can be more exciting than receiving gifts for birthdays and Christmas?  It takes quite a big brain shift for kids to consider GIVING as fun.  It isn't their fault.  From the moment of their birth they are given things and as time goes by they get right into the expectancy of stuff continuing to flow their way.
       It wasn't until I had my own money, that I realized how much fun it was to give someone a surprise gift.  The process of picking just the right thing, wrapping it up and then watching the recipient's face when they opened it was a real thrill for me.  I got the bug and started cooking up surprises, treasure hunts etc just for the fun of it.  Sometimes when I am out shopping I see something and buy it just because I think a friend would like it.  Sometimes, I just take someone out to lunch or a coffee for an hour.
       As you are aware, we consider a successful family as one that is parent-directed, family-orientated and outwardly-focused. Sneaky acts of kindness come into the 'outwardly-focused' category. They don't have to involve money.  Our kids should be encouraged to do something thoughtful for someone else as part of their everyday lives. It has an enormous effect on the one who receives the kind gesture or gift.

Here is a suggestion:
Choose one day a month for each person in the family to perform an act of kindness towards someone in the family.  Sarah makes brother Jonnie's bed because he hasn't done it yet.  Travis sets the table for Sue because she is still doing her homework.  Cameron helps Mrs. Jones load her shopping into the car.  Dad mows the neighbor's yard while they are on vacation.  Jane uses her pocket money to give a needy child shoes.  Jason gives some of his toys to the local play center.

It is fun being sneaky when it comes to surprising someone by doing a good deed.  It gets our kids out of the 'gimme, gimme' mentality and into a selfless mode of being kind 'just because' and of proactive observance and response to people's needs.

Another suggestion:
Nominate regular times of family-wide acts of kindness.  During family meetings you can all decide on one organized family endeavor per month.  Make some cookies and take them to a sick neighbor.  Adopt a struggling family for Christmas.  Support a child through an organization such as Compassion International, volunteer on a local Habitat for Humanity project.  Offer to watch a friend's kids for the weekend so they can have a break.

Once your family has got into the happy habit of performing sneaky acts of kindness, it should become a self-regulated pattern of behavior.  It will become unnecessary to set days of the month to do these things.  You have instilled a great quality into your children and your family will stand out as a valuable model for others to follow.

By Sally Burgess

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