Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kindness Counter

I saw something on another blog, and I'm sure I found my way there through something that started somewhere on Pinterest. This something was a super-cute little jar where kids (with their parents) write down every time they do something kind, and put their note in the jar.  It's their "kindness counter," and there are a few variations out there.  This particular version was meant for toddlers and pre-schoolers to keep track of all the nice things they do.  The idea was that they should be doing nice things for others and the goal was to teach the kids about kindness and to get them to consciously do at least one kind thing a day.

I'm not really sure how I feel about this, but I am pretty sure that I come down on the side of "bad idea," even though as I am re-reading this post, I realize I am not doing a good job of articulating why I feel that way. I just don't think that we ought to teach our kids that kind acts are countable -- or more importantly, that they are supposed to be counted.   I much prefer to teach CAM and WHM (and to model for them) that being kind and doing kind things is really our moral obligation as good people (and also as Christians, generally, and as Catholics, specifically).  We're supposed to be kind because it's the right thing to do, and there's no need to keep track of how many kind things we do.  I like pointing out to the kids when they do things that are particularly thoughtful or kind, recognizing them with positive comments or a hug -- but something about tallying them like this rests uneasy with me.  What happens when we fill the jar?  Are we done being kind?  Do we win a prize? 

I think it would be a nicer idea to record all the little things that people do along the way for us, sort-of a thankfulness journal or thankfulness counter.  I know, I know -- it is better to give than receive, so keeping a tally of all that we receive is probably counterintuitive, and I am not doing a very good job of explaining why I think it's different; but I do think it's different.  There's just something about recording your own good deeds that strikes me as though it's keeping score, and even though the motive might be genuine I just can't get my head or my heart around it.  On the other hand, recognizing when someone was kind to you, and consciously noting that you're thankful for that act or gesture -- or non-action or gesture, which is sometimes just as important -- I think is a good lesson on gratefulness and humbleness.  It also models for the kids what kindness is and means.  And I definitely think that my little two-year-old and four-year-old are old enough to answer the question, "What is one nice thing that someone did for you today?"  Even on the crummiest of days I try to do this for myself; why not for and with the kids?  It's a good reminder that even on the worst of days we have something to be thankful for.

Am I making sense? 

Or am I over-thinking this?

Do any of you keep thankfulness journals or kindness counters?  What are your thoughts?



  1. On my list of 101 things I have the goal to keep a thankfulness journal for 60 days. I don't do it as often as I should, but it does force me to think of three things I am thankful for on that day. Even if was a really crummy day and I can only think of the basic things, it really does help me realize that even though those things seem "basic" I don't know what I would do if I woke up tomorrow without them.

    I think kids can keep a journal like this (maybe one thing a day?) and over the years it would be something really special to look back and see how they've grown in recognizing what's going on around them. I think as their thinking evolved, so would the journal. Oh man, I need to write this down so I don't forget later.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Jackie!

    So, what do you think of the reverse, where the kids keep track of what kind acts they performed? I keep a personal thankfulness journal, and the kids and I also say thank-yous in our prayers each night -- for keeping Daddy safe if he's traveling, for our many blessings, for whatever they come up with really, even if it's mashed potatoes or Thomas the Tank Engine. I agree with you that a kid version is going to be fun to look back on (I might steal that idea!) But I'm still wrestling with the idea of that the kindness counter. Hmm.

  3. I think it is good to recognize kindness when it happens. Like you said, give a hug or praise. I think making a jar filled with kind things is a bit too much. I agree with your comment - what happens when the jar is full?

    Not only do I think it is a lot of work for the (minimal?) pay off, but I think it teaches kids that if you do something kind for someone else you should get an immediate formal recognition and it should get "counted". Being nice should be a personality trait that carries on throughout life regardless of the "rewards".

    Personally, I would feel like they completely missed the point if ever they did something nice when I wasn't looking then came and reported to me what they did and wanted their "reward". Sorry Charlie. Be nice to be nice, not because being nice gets you something.