Photo: Jenn Richardson

One of the most important things to me as a mother—aside from raising strong, opinionated girls who stand up for what they believe in—is planting the seeds necessary for my kids to grow into loving, caring, giving, kind adults.

This desire—which, to be honest, is more like an obsession—has only grown stronger with each horrific act of violence spread across the headlines. As if terror and bloodshed wasn’t enough, the hate that volleys around social media after these acts makes me even more nauseous.

I believe fiercely in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: 

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

I also believe that working your hardest to raise caring, compassionate, kind humans is infinitely more effective in making the world a better place than sitting behind your computer spewing hate.

Parenting is not easy and no parent is perfect. I’m the first one to jump up and admit that. That said, I do think there are a few things you can do to get a leg up in the Raising Kind Humans Department. Spoiler alert: they all include modeling kind behavior.

Don’t be a mean girl.

Moms who are mean girls will produce daughters who are mean girls. Why? Because those smart little cookies soak up everything you do. If they watch you make biting, unkind comments about other people all of the time they are going to do the same thing.

Obviously, there will be times when you loose your cool. Like when that jerk forgets to turn off their blinker and you narrowly escape a car accident. A few choice words may have escaped from your lips before you could zip them (or maybe it was just mine?). That’s OK. What’s not ok is routinely speaking negatively about just about every person you encounter. Unless, of course, you want your kids to do the same.

Be generous with compliments.

And not the gratuitous kind that you don’t even mean. When you think something nice about a person, don’t always hold it in. Say it. Tell them that they did a really awesome job or that their shirt is a great color for them.

Say things that make people feel good and do it completely honestly. Your kids will pick up on it and they’ll see the positive impact it has on the person you’re complimenting and how that glowing little bubble of good vibes rains down all over you too.

Making people feel good feels good. The earlier kids learn this, the better.

Let your kids see you do kind things.

Words are awesome, but make sure your kids see you actively participate in kindness in other ways as well. That can mean so many different things to different people. Maybe you routinely donate unwanted clothes to people in need or you clean up your local park. Maybe you make meals for an elderly lady down the street or spend hours at a soup kitchen each month.

No act of kindness is too small. The fact that your kids see you performing these acts makes a huge impression. For them, it becomes something you just do—like brushing your teeth or putting your toys away at the end of the day. It becomes ingrained in them and will slowly become a part of who they are.

Be a kind human and half of your battle is won.