Despite eating dinner together as a family almost every night, I felt like I was getting no information out of my children. How was your day at school was always answered with a good, fine or huh? But nothing real. We did get information like, “Did you know that Ben can make fart noises with his leg?” and “We had grapes for snack.” But not the real tangible answer that every parent wants to “How was your day at school?”

Determined to make a change and inspired by the Acts of Kindness Award given here at St. Thomas, I decided to institute our own acts of kindness conversations at home: What was challenging today, what was the best part of your day and what did you do that was kind or nice for someone today? Well, the first few meals were interesting. Our five-year-old told us all the nice things that someone could be doing for her; like buying her a surprise at Target or letting her watch a Harry Potter movie. Our seven-year-old told us tales of perceived injustices at school – a friend losing his tennis ball and not being able to be a “door-holder.”

I couldn’t figure it out. It’s not like our kids don’t know how to be kind. But in their self-centered world, it was about others being kind to them. I realized that my husband and I also have to be part of the conversation. We have to model for them real acts of kindness so they could literally see kindness in action.

I have to admit that the first few times I was to describe my act of kindness, I couldn’t think of anything … surely I had been kind to someone all day long. But then I noticed something happening. We were all trying to actually be kind to someone we encountered in our day – sharing our lunch, helping a friend pick-up Legos, giving someone a ride home, etc. I am not sure how it happened – maybe it is because we are a competitive family or maybe, just maybe, it is because the concept of kindness finally sunk in with all of us.

How about you? Maybe not at dinner but over a cup of coffee or a cold beer, take the time to reflect and share about your acts of kindness. Who knows, we might be starting something here!

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2 Responses

  1. Ann Schiffer

    What a great reminder. I love the questions, and I wonder if they will work with teenagers? I’ll give it a try. Thanks.

  2. Tom King

    If only more parents would take the time to grace their dinner hour with such questions and conversation!

    It’s hard to do these days with all the distractions and busy schedules, but never has it been more important.

    Interestingly, years ago a friend told me these were his daily three questions to his kids at the dinner table: “What did you learn today that you didn’t know before? What did you see today that was beautiful (besides your mother)? What nice thing did you do for someone else today?”

    A lot like yours, Cecilia, just spoken by a wise and caring father in this instance. His kids are now in their 40s, still learning, tuned to beauty in this lovely world of ours and, most importantly, still doing nice things for others.

    No one knows for sure if their dinner table conversation caused that, but caring communication among family surely helps.

    Thanks for a fine Scroll commentary!