A Thoughtful Alternative to Elf on the Shelf that Will Teach Your Kids Lifelong Lessons

Today is World Kindness Day! Who knew such a celebration existed? Really, though, shouldn't every day be kindness day?

As parents, I think one of our main goals is to raise kids who care for others. But, guess what? Our kids don't always get that message. Several surveys have now shown us that despite our words, kids think we value other things over kindness. Results from this year's Highlights State of the Kid report illustrate this:

- almost half of kids surveyed (44%) said they think their parents' top priority is their happiness

- 33% of kids thought doing well in school was their parent's top priority for them

- only 23% of kids said that they thought being kind was their parent's top priority for them

In other words, it seems like there is a gap in what we think we are communicating to our kids and what they are hearing.
Kids are hearing that we want them to be happy and achieve more than we want them to be kind.

This Holiday Season Introduce Your Kids to a Kinder Alternative to Elf on the Shelf

Kindness Builds True Happiness

Of course, we parents know that being kind and being happy are not mutually exclusive. They go hand in hand. As study author Christine French Cully points out,
“Maybe part of the message we aren’t always sending to our kids is that yes, we want you to be happy, but part of being happy means thinking about the needs of others sometimes.” 
We know from experience that being kind actually makes us feel happier. Now research is backing this up too. New studies show that compassionate or kind acts do spark connections in the brain that promote feelings of pleasure and happiness.

This Holiday Season Introduce Your Kids to a Kinder Alternative to Elf on the Shelf

Fostering Kindness

The holiday season is just about upon us. This is a perfect time to help our kids see, in a lovely hands-on way, how kindness builds on itself. The Kindness Elves are a wonderful way to do this with our kids.

Let's face it, The Elf on the Shelf is a popular holiday tradition, but what does it really teach? I don't want to get too serious here, but really this tradition focuses on encouraging good behavior as a way of avoiding negative outcomes (no toys!). In other words, fear becomes the motivating force here. Kids want to do good for fear of getting no presents at Christmas. Deep down, we know (and research backs it up) that fear is not really an effective long-term strategy for teaching moral lessons. As this great article points out, we want to "raise a good person, not just one who's afraid of being bad." 

The Kindness Elves focus on the opposite--kindness for kindness sake. They offer wonderful ideas for everyday acts of kindness that kids can do. With this approach, kids learn quickly that kindness is it's own best reward. The feelings of happiness and joy you feel when you do something helpful for another person is the best type of positive reinforcement.

The Kindness Elves bundle

The holiday season is the perfect time to introduce your kids to the Kindness Elves. You might want to get yours soon so you'll be sure to have it before the holiday season really gets underway. They come in several different varieties (e.g., skin tone, hair color, etc.). The best part for parents is that the kindness ideas and cute cards are already done for you. No scouring Pinterest to find ideas each day.

We started introducing the Kindness Elves a couple of years ago in my house. The boys love it! In fact, my 8-year-old asks when "Elfie" is coming back each year. The acts of kindness are simple but meaningful. We also have a lot of fun figuring out where in the house Elfie hid each night while we were sleeping.

The Kindness Elves

Curious about how kids develop empathy (the basis for kindness) over the course of their development? Check out this post:

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A Thoughtful Alternative to Elf on the Shelf that Will Teach Your Kids Lifelong Lessons

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