How to raise kind kids: 9 daily habits that teach kids kindness

Looking for ways to cultivate kindness, mama? We've got you covered.

Two-children-laughing-and-reading-together
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

Family life can thrive or falter depending on the strength of our routines. As any parent will tell you, we face fewer missed buses, fewer hangry tantrums and more happy kid smiles when critical parts of the day unfold predictably. Too often, we forget that the same routine that makes family life manageable—the rituals and phrases we repeat day after day (after day, after day)—create the framework for who our children will become. Our kids will remember these little moments as the general feel and flare of their childhood.

Over the years, I've watched for ways to work kindness and compassion into my family's daily routines. These small, day-to-day changes have helped me live my values even during the hectic weeks when we're too busy to volunteer and too tired to get creative with little acts of kindness.

Here are nine daily habits that help raise kind kids:


1. Make room for an early morning pause.

The scientific foundation for a daily moment of mindfulness is as expansive as it is overly-cited. According to the Scientific American, the one thing nearly all studies on mindfulness can agree upon is that "tuning into the world around you may provide a sense of well-being."

Even those of us who are night owls can recognize the difference a good morning makes. The world feels less hostile when our family builds in a few moments to pause together. You don't need to mediate for ages or share a three-course breakfast each morning. Some families I know simply wake their kids up a half hour earlier than necessary to allow for a slower pace and a few sleepy-eyed snuggles before the normal morning routine unfolds. At my house, we make it a point to arrive a little early at the bus stop, early enough to take a few deep breathes together and share our goals for the day.

2. Adopt empowering refrains.

The way we speak to our children shapes the way they understand themselves and ultimately the way they live in the world. Research demonstrates that teaching children to speak and think positively about themselves improves their self-compassion and pro-social behavior.

Here are our favorite phrases to empower kind kids. Remember to use them as specifically and honestly as possible. Kids are incredible at detecting insincerity!

Empower kind kids with these big-hearted phrases

  • You are such a helpful kid.
  • Your kindness (or your big heart) makes me proud.
  • Your kindness takes a lot of courage.
  • Your kindness makes a real difference.
  • I'm proud that you are the kind of person who treats others with compassion and respect.
  • I love how curious you are.
  • That's interesting. Tell me more about that.
  • Fixing your mistakes means you are learning.
  • Every problem has a solution. Let's try again.
  • You're a good problem solver. How do you think we should do this?
  • I'm impressed with how hard you have worked.

3. Celebrate acts of kindness in a concrete way.

Research confirms that accountability is a key way to foster new habits and reach difficult goals. By letting your family know that kindness and helping others is a priority, you're setting high expectations for follow through.

Try making a visual display with this Kindness Quilt printable from Doing Good Together, a national nonprofit that features many creative ways to share kindness as a family. Or simply make time each day to ask, "Who did you help today?" and "Who helped you?" By sharing your acts of kindness each day, your kids will begin to watch for ways they can be helpful, partly so they have a story to share.

4. Move together daily.

We all know the physical and psychological benefits of exercise. By reserving a half hour or so after dinner to move together, playfully, you give your family a chance to shed the day's stress and reset your minds and bodies for tomorrow.

At my house, this looks different every day. Last week, we took a flashlight walk through the trees behind our house. Last night, we played a raucous game of stuffed animal tag. Whether you're walking through the park, playing soccer, or dancing wildly, this moment of joyful movement will make it easier to share compassion tomorrow.

5. Add a recurring volunteer effort to the calendar.

Of course, making small daily changes doesn't replace the benefits of regular volunteering with your child in your community. Regular volunteering gives kids a strong sense of empowerment, as they see themselves as helpers. When they notice a problem, they tend not to wait for someone else to step in with a solution. This self-reliance and empowerment translate into the courage to stand up for others when social conflict arises.

6. Cut down on unsupervised weekday screen time.

The science behind screen time is still evolving, but a growing body of research is declaring play to be the most essential and most diminishing learning tool of childhood.

If you think about how much time kids spend at school, in transit, and in extracurricular activities, they only have a couple of hours a night to be kids.

Outside climbing trees.
Inside building epic Lego towers.
On the swings arguing with siblings and neighbors over what to do next.

It's incredible how much energy it takes to say no to screen time, but watching the creativity and camaraderie (more or less) my children develop away from their gadgets has been worth it. Plus, I've stuck to this rule often enough that I'm basically the family hero when I agree to break my own rule from time to time.

7. Seek out one good news story to share each day.

As more people feel emotionally depleted by alarming news stories, they begin to feel a greater sense of apathy and cynicism. The Guardian recently reported, "Research by Dr. Denise Baden, an associate professor at Southampton Business School, the University of Southampton, has found that the more negatively people feel after consuming bad news, the less likely they are to voice an opinion or take action to improve the world around them."

Thankfully, solutions-based journalism is becoming more and more common. Visit the magazine Positive News or the Washington Post's Inspired Life for some beautiful examples. Make it a habit to track down and share a newsworthy story of hope and courage. Your whole family will feel more inspired to become change makers when you make time to notice the important, world-improving work happening right now.

8. Lean into your evening routine.

Research has found that the way an event or experience ends determines the way we feel about that experience. Let's show our children the compassion of a soothing bedtime routine. It's too easy to rush through the bedtime transition with your mental focus already collapsed on the couch in a heap of parental exhaustion. We all do it. We all have had those long days that drive us to just want to be done. When possible, let's resist the urge to rush.

Instead, if we allow ourselves to enjoy the last part of the day, we may all feel more connected, more grateful, and more prepared for the day to come.

I discovered the power of this last year when my daughter asked for "snuggle tickets" for Christmas, so she wouldn't have to beg me to stay a few extra minutes. Ouch, and awwww.

9. Reach for great reads.

Emerging research is demonstrating what book lovers have always known instinctively: reading is an incredible tool for developing empathy, compassion, and insight into the world of others.

One study found that literary fiction, as opposed to popular genre fiction, develops empathy in readers of all ages. So we do need to stretch ourselves and our young readers to read extraordinary books. Not exclusively, but regularly. Up your reading game by seeking out great reads to enjoy as a family.

With persistence, these solid roots of kindness will help our little ones grow into compassionate, helpful, curious, and empowered adults who we'll delight in knowing.

This article originally appeared on Doing Good Together. It was first published here on February 18, 2020.

Check out some of our tried-and-true kindness inspiring tools in the Motherly Shop!

Human Kind Be Both tee shirt

Human Kind tee shirt

Let your child wear their kindness on their sleeve—or chest. This buttery soft shirt is available in sizes ranging from 12m to 6T.

$28

Motherly "I Am A Thousand Miracles" cuff bracelet - baby + toddler

Motherly "I Am A Thousand Miracles" cuff bracelet - baby + toddler

A thousand miracles wrapped in the cutest package. This stunning, simple bracelet is a gentle reminder that your little one's existence is both monumental and miraculous. It's never too early to encourage self-love.

$30

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

Conz Preti

Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


Belly oil

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Oil

Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.

$58

Belly mask

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

$42

Nipple + lip ointment 

HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

$28

Belly tattoos

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

$18

This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

You've got this.

Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

The Motherly Birth Class

pregnant-woman-looking-at-her-belly

Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

$79

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14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


Secret Agent play set

Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Stepping Stones

Stepping-stones

Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

$99.99

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Sensory play set

kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$19.95

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Foam pogo stick

Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

$16.99

Dumptruck 

green-toys-dump-truck

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

$22

Hopper ball

Hopper ball

Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

$14.99

Pull-along ducks

janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$16.99

Rocking chair seesaw

Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

$79.99

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$79.99

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

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The ultimate back-to-school shopping list for busy moms

Use this list to prep for the best first day ever!

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After spending a summer reconnecting with friends and family, enjoying the outdoors and (hopefully!) making time for vacation, it's time for kids to head back to school. They're ready to learn, grow and get out of your hair again! But they'll need some help to get there. Before the exciting first day of school, you'll need to get all the gear together to make school a success.

As a parent, use this basic but essential school supply list to find everything your little ones need for their classes—even on a budget.

Loose Leaf Paper

Even though there won't be any tests or quizzes when school begins, kids take plenty of notes, complete assignments and do in-class exercises. Every student needs at least a few packets of loose-leaf paper for quick notes and doodles. Check with your child's school to find out if they require college ruled or wide ruled before you fill up your shopping cart — odds are they won't, but it's worth being sure.

$4

Personal Planner

Your child will need a personal planner to kick off the school year and keep up with all of their assignments. It's an opportunity to invest in cute school supplies that motivate your kids every time they open their planners. Plus, planners help kids learn time management and responsible scheduling, which they can carry with them throughout their academic lives and into college and adulthood.

$22

#2 Pencils

Most classes require #2 pencils because they show up easily on test bubble sheets that machines scan and grade. Add them to your child's school supply list before they sell out at local stores. A great deal on a large pack will likely last through the year.

$10.29

Black Ink Pens

Teachers grade in red ink pens so their notes stand out as study tools. Your student should use black ink pens that don't bleed on the paper. Their work will stand out and never smudge if you use a tried-and-true brand that knows how to make a quality pen, like BIC.

$4.47

Highlighters in Different Colors

Highlighters help students study if they outline notes in different colors. Get your child a pack so they have all the help they need for their study materials. If they're stressed about the tougher classwork, don't forget to break the tension with jokes that will put them at ease.

$9.99

Big Pink Erasers

The erasers on the top of pencils won't last long in classes like calculus or trigonometry. Give your kids a backup by buying packs of big pink erasers. They last much longer and often do a better job of wiping mistakes away.

$.99

New Headphones

Headphones are one of the school supplies kids can use to express themselves. They'll wear them while studying in the library or riding the bus so they can focus or relieve stress between classes.

$16.99

Lined Notebooks

Notebooks are cute school supplies that students always need. The spiral-bound pages are easy to flip through and lightweight in a backpack. They even help with virtual classes because each subject can have a different notebook and further organize notes that assist with online tests.

$3.19

Three-Ring Binders

Students collect their loose-leaf notes in three-ring binders because they snap everything shut and keep notes safe. Find back-to-school binders that match your child's personality so they can stack everything safely in their locker without bending or crushing papers.

$16.95

Locker Decorations

Most kids love decorating their lockers when they start middle school or junior high. Add locker decorations to your school supply list so they can personalize their storage unit and feel more at home.

$14.99

New Lunch Box

Spoiled food ruins the first day of school. But a dual-compartment lunch box ensures your child's food stays fresh throughout the day by designating a special section for an ice pack. Your purchase could also start a new tradition of getting a different lunch box when the school year begins, easing your kids' nerves about beginning a new grade.

$12.99

Upgraded Backpack

It's always fun to get a new backpack. Let your kids pick one that matches their size and expresses their personality with characters, colors, or other prints.

$31.96

Colorful Markers

Young kids might need help adjusting to virtual school or having fun during in-person classes. Colorful markers are an easy way for them to relax while doodling, and they'll likely be part of daily assignments for elementary school students.

$3.49

Reusable Water Bottle

Drinking out of water fountains helps spread illnesses. Your kids can avoid flu season by carrying a reusable water bottle in their backpack. Let them pick out whichever one they want and they'll look forward to using it instead of drinking from public fountains.

$29.95

Calculator

Every teenager needs a calculator when they go back to school. A TI-89 model assists with graphing functions and lasts throughout their academic careers. You won't have to buy another one if they keep it in its case between classes.

$130.99
Back to School Landing

Mom relieves baby's gas like a pro in viral TikTok

"How was he not floating around like a balloon?!" asked one commenter.

@kaseybuscemi/TikTok

We all know the struggles of having a gassy baby. It can be rough—for baby and for you! Since babies don't actually come out of the womb knowing how to pass their own gas without a little assistance, there are so many different techniques and tips out there to help your baby feel more comfortable when they're a little...flatulent.

"Bicycle legs" is one common technique that can help get things moving for baby gas relief, and no one does it better than this mom on TikTok.

Her video has more than 10 million likes, and it's not hard to see why—it's mesmerizing, informative, and, of course, downright hilarious!


Her little baby has a wicked case of the toots and even mom cracks up by the end.

Someone give this mom, @kaseybuscemi TikTok, a gold medal, because she just placed first in the Farting Your Baby Olympics. No joke. When I first learned about the "bicycle legs" technique (after my baby spit the gripe water right back at me and, I kid you not, laughed in my face while making direct eye contact), I felt awkward and had no idea what kind of rhythm was required to effectively fart my own baby.

This mom? TOTAL PRO.

The comments on this video are as funny and entertaining as you'd expect them to be, too:

Never in my 30 years of living have I ever seen someone fart a baby. This is so cool.

TWIST IT! PULL IT! BOP IT!

*baby all grown up* "So what's a fun fact of yours?" "Oh 6 million people saw me fart."

How was he not floating around like a balloon??

Farting a baby is just as important as burping a baby!

As far as the importance of farting a baby goes, yes, in case you're wondering, it is important. Some gassiness in babies is totally normal—just like with adults. Regular farting and burping are a sign of good gastrointestinal health, according to Healthline. In addition to bicycle legs, changing the baby's position, gently massaging the baby or bouncing the baby a little bit can also help alleviate trapped gas.

Your baby could also be intaking a tad too much air from your nipple or the nipples of a bottle if they're extra gassy. If you're concerned about your own baby's gassiness, contact your pediatrician or healthcare provider for more information.

If you're looking to master the bicycle legs technique, though, look no further than this video right here!

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