Post written by Blended Family columnist Melissa Gorzelanczyk of Peace & Projects.

As parents, we’ve been told to focus on the positive.
Yet there are some days as a step-mom when I feel this practice is an illusion. Instead of smiles, I’m met with bad attitudes, teens who don’t want to help and suddenly every interaction feels like a battle.
Negativity spreads like a common cold, first to me, and then my reactions sour, spreading further to affect Mr. Right and even my writing.  The dog is barking to be let out and suddenly, we’re yelling for no reason, irritated and stuck in a negative rut. On those days, I swear the dog’s passive gaze means he’s thinking we’re all crazy.
Focusing on the positive had gone to the dogs in our house, but I knew the routine of us being more negative to each other than nice had to change.

Solution: Inspire Kindness

True kindness isn’t something you can demand from your kids, but I’ve discovered you can definitely foster it.
As a test, I created a system that was easy to use, yet specific enough to turn our hearts toward the sun. I told the kids my idea and placed our new Kindness Jar in the center of the kitchen table.

Kindness Jar supplies

  • Quart-size jar
  • Pen
  • Colored index cards or paper cut into piece

How it works

Each person is assigned a color. When you “catch” someone being kind, you write the details on their-color ticket and drop it in the jar. This creates a nice visual for the family. Here are a few of our nominations:

  • Washed dog dish.
  • Brought me a cup of coffee.
  • Stuck up for brother at a football game.
  • Shared your chocolate.

Instructions (I pasted these to the outside of the jar)

  • Nominate family members for being kind (can’t nominate self).
  • Be kind! (But don’t ask others to nominate you.)

Rewarding kindness

Choose a reward that fits your budget and kids’ personalities. With two teenagers who love eating junk food, 10 kindness tickets equals a trip to Taco Bell, their favorite place to eat.

  • Tip: If you have younger children, consider this Good Deed Jar method.

The true rewards

At first, my husband and I were the only ones filling out tickets – but then something amazing happened. I began to notice tickets in the jar the kids had written for each other, or even for us. As “lame” as my idea may have seemed at first, I couldn’t help but note the glowing look on their faces when I’d proclaim, “I’m filling out a ticket for that!” Everyone was feeling more appreciated and loved.
A week went by. I saw the kids help each other, willingly, but they never once asked the other to fill out a ticket. My requests for help were getting a better response, too.
I noticed a change in myself. Instead of feeling annoyed when one of the kids left a mess, I began to enjoy helping them with things. I haven’t taken over all of their chores, but focusing on kindness has definitely inspired a new way of thinking. I’m more mindful of their feelings and how they may need my help. Some of their moods are not so black and white – sometimes, my kids just need a break, like all of us.
The real reward of our experiment isn’t earning a trip out to eat. Rather, it’s that we’ve come to believe the mantra:
Kindness is its own reward.
How do you inspire your family to focus on the positive?

(photo source)

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