Kindness is having a bit of a moment. The news is so saturated with anything but, so it should come as no surprise that we’re trying to collect all the glimmering rays of hope and positivity that we can find.
I say this often because it’s true: one of the most important jobs of a parent is to raise kind, empathetic humans. We are raising the next generation of adults. If we raise a small army of jerks, that is what the world will become.
But how do you do that? How do you teach kindness and compassion?
You start with your actions. You show them how to be kind by actually being kind. You turn in lost wallets and help people reach things on high shelves and volunteer your time. Your kids will see this and they’ll slowly start doing it, too.
Next, you share stories of other people being kind. Books are one of the best ways to do this. With a captive audience and the warm, fuzzy vibes they feel from a bonding session with you, it’ll be even more enjoyable to transfer the message from the story you read.
Jessica Hische’s second picture book, Tomorrow I’ll Be Kind (a follow up to her debut, Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave), is a great place to start.
As in her debut, Hische combines beautiful hand-lettered words with adorable animal characters to bring her message to life. Each spread is based around a word relating to kindness that the sweet little animals strive to be: helpful, patient, gentle, honest, generous, grateful, and kind. Through short rhymes, the story explains how to be these big words.
“Tomorrow I’ll be helpful / when I see someone in need / I won’t stand by or hesitate, / I’ll get up and take the lead!”
“Tomorrow I’ll be gentle / to creatures big and small / Thinking of what others need — / I’ll show tenderness to all.”
These big ideas are broken down and made clearer and more manageable by the illustrations, which feature a bunny, a cat, a mouse, and some of their animal friends on each page.
On the first “helpful” spread, ants help the mouse put garbage in a trash can while the bunny comes over to help the cat, who skinned her knee when she fell off her scooter. On one of the “gentle” spreads, the bunny very sweetly holds a baby bunny on a chair while the cat carefully lifts up the mouse to help it build a tower of blocks.
I love that the book encourages children to do small, easy-to-accomplish acts to make a difference while also reassuring them that it’s okay if they don’t get it right today. They can always try again tomorrow. Maybe that’s why my favorite lines are “Tomorrow I’ll be all the things I strive to be each day… / and even when it’s difficult, I’ll work to find a way. / But tonight I’m very sleepy, so now it’s time to rest. / I’ll dream of all the good that comes when we all just try our best.”
To be honest, I need to hear this message just as much as my kids do — especially after the hard days that devolve into yelling and tears and everyone feeling bad. It urges kindness while simultaneously letting us all know that it’s never too late for a clean slate.