Successful children learn to be kind, not just nice

Heather Jauquet

Let's teach our children to be kind
Little girl whispering in a little boys earSaeed Karimi/Unsplash

How many times have we heard, “Be nice!” When we were growing up, adults always told us to be nice. But now is the time to stop telling our children to be nice. Instead, these days we should be focusing on kindness. Did you know there is a difference between being nice and being kind?

But did you know that there is a difference between being nice and being kind? Nice is pleasant, agreeable, or satisfactory. According to, kindness is defined as “having, showing, or proceeding from benevolence.”

Too often, we tell our children to be nice, play nicely with others, or ask them if they are nice.

Whenever my teenager is snarky with his younger brother, my husband reminds him, “Kindness, son, kindness.” He doesn't tell our son to be nice because he doesn't want him to be nice. Instead, my husband wants our son to act with kindness.

Nice is listening politely and responding with empathetic platitudes. Kindness is action.

In a tweet from Jordan Green, “Niceness is saying ‘I'm so sorry you're cold,’ while kindness may be, "Ugh, you've said that five times, here's a sweater!" Kindness is addressing the need, regardless of tone.

I have stopped telling my children to be nice. Instead, I ask them to put nice to work and to be kind. So we have taken “nice” out of our vocabulary, replacing it with acts of kindness.

Kindness is holding the door open for the person behind you, and it is helping you fold down your stroller and put it on the belt while you go through security at the airport.

Nice is a bevy of platitudes. Kindness is action.

According to Learning Lift off, "Teaching children to value kindness and to interact positively with peers gives them a competitive advantage over children who focus entirely on their own success."

Kindness needs to be taught. Just because we are kind does not mean that our children will automatically be kind. They do not learn through osmosis. As parents, we need to do more than demonstrate kindness; we need to encourage them to be kind and guide them through it, just as we did when we taught them how to tie their shoes, put on their jackets, and look both ways before they cross the street.

We don’t teach by osmosis; we teach by doing and having our children follow our examples until they can do it independently. It is teaching our children to look beyond themselves and to think of the people around them. That is how we teach kindness.

So please stop telling my children to be nice. Instead, let’s teach them to be kind.

“Wash the plate not because it is dirty nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.” -St. Teresa of Calcutta

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Certified educator K-12 and Reading Specialist with a focus on the adolescent brain. I write about how educational decisions affect parents, students, and staff. As an educator and parent I also focus on community events for the whole family.


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