Random Acts of Kindness: Teaching Children to Pay it Forward

We've all heard the buzzword, "random acts of kindness," and we may even try to show kindness to others. But how do we as parents instill those values in our children? Here are some ideas.

The other day I was sitting in traffic, a drizzling, chilly morning in rush hour traffic. Everyone with their own agenda, their own problems; but as I sat there, a truck pulled up beside another pickup that was laden with furniture. A guy got out of the passenger side, walked around to the back of the loaded pickup and grabbed a part of the plastic that was covering the load but had blown loose. He quickly tucked the plastic back over the load and re-secured it. Then he ran and jumped back into the truck, waved to the startled driver of the pickup and drove off. I sat there for a moment, smiling.

We’ve all heard the buzzword, “random acts of kindness,” and we may even try to show kindness to others. But how do we as parents instill those values in our children? It is a self centered, materialistic world that we live in and teaching our children to step beyond that is not small task. However, it is possible to teach our kids these good values and it starts with giving them a role model. Children learn what they live, so if they live with you doing random acts of kindness, they are fairly certain to follow.

A random act of kindness does not have to be a major production. Kindness comes in many different shapes and sizes – and it is free. Teach your kids by doing, but also plan some actions with your child. Talk about nice things that you can do for others. Try some of these “random acts of kindness” with your teen.

At the Market

  • When you are in the checkout line as see someone with a full cart, help them unload it.
  • At the self check-out lines (that can be so frustrating!) if you see someone struggling with the system, step up and help them out.
  • If you see someone trying to get something on a shelf that is out of reach and you are tall enough to reach it, get it for them.
  • When you are in the parking lot and see someone putting their groceries in their car, offer to help.
  • Let someone go ahead of you in the checkout line.

On the Street

  • Hold the door for someone.
  • Smile at people and say “good morning” or “hello.”
  • Compliment a stranger, especially if they seem as if they are having a bad day.
  • When leaving a pay parking garage, pay for the person behind you when you pay for yourself.

Other Acts of Kindness

  • When you meet someone, learn their name and one personal thing about them (a college professor taught me this and is is amazing the impact it has on people).
  • When you have good service somewhere, write a letter to the company and that person’s manager, telling them about their outstanding employee.
  • Stop negative comments by changing the subject when someone starts talking in a negative, bad way.
  • If you wash your clothes at a laundromat and someone has left their laundry in the dryer that you want to use, instead of just taking their clothes out and dumping them in the basket, fold them neatly.
  • Tape the exact change that is needed for a soda on a soda machine. If you like, add a note, “This one’s on me!”
  • Listen to someone who needs to talk. Just listen to them.
  • Leave an inspirational book in a place where you know it will be found (in a park, on the bus, etc.). You can even leave a note telling the reader you hope they enjoy the book and to pass it on to someone else when they are finished.
  • Do something nice for someone when they are ill like wash their dishes, cook a meal or tidy up their house.
  • Bake cookies and take them to someone who is homebound.
  • Locate a family that is struggling financially and buy each member several small gifts then have it delivered while you remain anonymous.

Volunteer Activities

  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
  • Read to children.
  • Help out at a shelter for homeless people, battered women or runaways.
  • Visit a retirement home.
  • Volunteer at a hospital, children’s ward or clinic.

Use Your Words

  • Write a letter, or for younger kids, help them write a letter to someone, telling them how much you appreciate them.
  • Write a letter to a friend, classmate or co-worker, highlighting their strengths.
  • Play “10 Good Things.” Say ten good things about someone.
  • Remember that words are powerful. Say something to someone that you know they want to hear – or need to hear.
  • Tell someone that they are special.
  • Tell someone that you love them.

Where to Find More Acts of Kindness Ideas

This site has several lists and tons of ideas for kind things you can do for others.

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

Lots of inspiring ideas on this site. You can also share your acts of kindness and read what others are doing.

Words are Powerful: The Love Project

Find out what people really want to hear and just how powerful your words can be. You can also leave your own comments or story.

Don’t be Sad Blog

30 great ideas for doing kind things for others.

Random Acts of Kindness Blog

Lots of good, interesting ideas for doing random acts of kindness.

Kind Acts

Interesting site that talks about Random Acts of Kindness Week as well as gives ideas for doing kind acts.

Sit down with your child and make a plan together. Brainstorm and think of different ways that you can be kind to others. Work together and make random acts of kindness a family objective. If your kids are living these values, they will learn them and carry them on as they grow older.

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More4kids CEO, Editor and Chief

Greetings! I’m Kevin, the founder and chief editor of More4Kids International, a comprehensive resource for parents worldwide. My mission is to equip parents with the tools and insights they need to raise exceptional children.

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  • Recently I witnessed a great act of kindness from my daughter MJ who is 5 1/2

    I had the great pleasure of watching my daughter give The friendship Stone to the man who sweeps the streets in our neighborhood! Every morning my 5 year old says “good morning ” to him. I think that he is in shock that we do….but I have explained to my MJ what an important job he has – and she thinks he is great. As you know we just celebrated The Jewish New Year. We often give gifts to those closest to us. She decided to give this lovely man (he must be around 65) a friendship stone! She told him all about it and that it is a reminder for him to keep positive even if it is raining when he works ! leave it to a 5 year old !

  • Love your idea about the inspirational book. We have another one for the market. Leave coupons that you clip of the shelf next to the product for someone to use.

  • This is great! For more about middle and high school students performing acts of kindness, check out A whole community of teens and adults alike dedicated to performing “intentional acts of kindness”. Boom Boom! Cards is a new concept dedicated to intentionally making the world a kinder place, one small act a time. Check it out.

  • What a great message! Teaching children to be compassionate is so important. For more random acts of kindness, and a great resource for getting your family involved in volunteering, check out Doing Good Together (!

  • Love this article….One of my passions in life is showing kindness in a way that hopefully others want to “pass it on”…..I love people and the compassion we’ve been given by God makes me want to reach out to others and love them unconditionally. I have my own greeting card company which allows me to send cards to people WHEN I THINK OF THEM. I simply go my website, create the card, push SEND button and it’s in the mail — real physical mail. It’s another great way to show kids at an early age the art of appreciation, and also to connect with others, be it grandparents, other relatives, friends, etc. Gives them the ability to put into their own words at an early age their thoughts….

  • Yes I agree With You Kindness Is A very meaningful symbol in our life and…
    We have to deal everyone with love and kind
    thank you for your post

  • I’m so glad I discovered this post – it’s wonderful. I feel the same way about the power of kindness. In fact, I and some family and friends from Minnesota are launching a Kindness Challenge on 1/1/2012. Our hope is to inspire people around the world to “warm the world” through kindness through 1,000,000 acts of kindness during January, 2012. If you and your fans and followers would like to join us, we’re on facebook/kindness-challenge or our website is:

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