Kindness starts at home. That's why, as America heads into the 2018-2019 school year, we turned to real moms to find out how they teach their kids kindness.
Because the truth is: Your kid can be the most popular, the smartest or the fastest but in the end, none of it matters if they aren't kind.
From all-inclusive birthday parties to asking how they could have been more kind during the day, this is what real moms are doing to raise great kids.
Get our full coverage to head back to school like a boss and own the school year.
"I make sure my kids are extra kind and sensitive to the children whose parents can't go to EVERY. SINGLE. SCHOOL. EVENT. Some of the little shows/publishing parties add up for a working parent and my own children understand that, so I make sure no one feels left out or sad if their parent cant make it." -- Lisa Lawrence
"We review our day at dinner. Based on those conversations we might choose a book on that topic to read at bed time to talk more about something from school. Depending on the time of year we may theme our evening talks and books around that: civil rights, Latino history, Eid etc." -- Maureen Yusuf-Morales
"I throw a Halloween party every year. All the kids in my daughter’s class are invited. Now that they are entering 5th grade the last few years not all attend. But I still want everyone to know they are invited." -- Beth Bahr
"My parents created this rule: you invite everyone in your class to your birthday party, or no party at all (usually all the girls as a kid) Now not everyone is able to do this but it was the most incredible lesson and made me socially inclusive the rest of my life ... And because I was inviting kids I probably wouldn't have initially, I became better friends with them. ... I plan on doing the same with my kids now that I am a mom!" -- Melissa Hobley
"On school half days, make an open invitation for the class to meet at a local park for a picnic for lunch. ... Always a fun, relaxed hang out time with some people who you don't typically cross paths with." -- Beth Foraker
Reach out to others:
"I always made sure my daughter had an outside passion so she has a built in group of like minded friends. For her it's been gymnastics. She's been with the same girls since she was 4 so no matter what is going on at school she always has a close supportive group." -- Liz Neporent
"As parents of a high schooler, we try to host some back to school parties at our house and invite different friends." -- Stephanie Hall Meredith
"My daughter’s birthday is in the beginning of the school year (Sept. 9) and we invite her entire class. We also invite all the parents for drinks and food to get to know one another. Unfortunately, the biggest problem we once had wasn’t exclusive kids, but exclusive parents. It’s sad how some parents will actively try to exclude certain children. We try to help set the tone and have all the parents get to know each other at the onset of the school year!" -- Melody Diegor Caprio
"Last year I managed to arrange 0 play dates for my 4-year-old, so the bar is low. With my 7-year-old/rising 2nd grader, she usually arranges her own play dates (seriously), but we talk a lot about including everyone at recess and in the classroom. Her school has a Buddy Bench by each playground and all the children know they are supposed to invite anyone sitting there to play -- I love how that builds in inclusiveness and kindness. I'm also thinking she is old enough for a discussion along these lines before school starts." -- Katie Escherich Morison
"I honestly try to talk to her about including everyone especially on the playground -- to welcome anyone in to a game that wants to play and never ever tell anyone no. Also, helping any classmates that may need it (she is very smart) gives her the chance to get to know everyone on a special level -- this she enjoys talking to me about so then we roll it in to her telling me what happened at school that day. We discuss if she felt left out and I try to use that so she understands how others feel also. I do ask her to try and play with someone different a few times a week and we talk about if it was hard or easy -- again to understand the feelings. Also, some of the moms have a pact that there are no electronics on play dates so everyone is on the same page and the kids are actually interacting and getting to know each other. This year there was also an open invitation to Kalahari [resort and water park] - one of the moms got a group rate for a block of rooms and printed out a flyer that went to everyone in the class. And I try to put her in some activities outside of school and see my friends and their kids a lot so that she plays with a totally different group of kids and gets to see a different perspective. " -- Elizabeth H. Salbod
"So what I’m trying to do is: 1.) Connect with the moms that are in my son’s and daughter’s classes and make play dates -- when I was little we just played with people in the street, but it’s so different now. 2.) sign up for one or two activities outside of school, 3) when we are driving I ask my son one simple question, such as: what would you do if you saw a kid sitting alone in the playground? And then we talk about it. 4) I play plenty of board games with him so he knows how to do it at camp or with others, Finally, 5)I make sure he is able to play by himself and make up games by himself so he is able to do so with a friend, and not rely on electronics to run the play date." -- Theresa Maisto
"While my daughter speaks freely, it’s hard to get my son to open up. But, one question I’ve started to ask him and he likes to answer is “did anyone not have fun at camp today and if so, why?” He’s quick to share if someone got upset and if it’s something that Joey could have helped with, I ask him for ideas about how he could have made the other camper feel better. I find it to be a great conversation starter and get him thinking about helping and being kind!" -- Vicky Dussich
"As they get older, the little tricks with play dates and playground meet ups get harder and harder. Or more unrealistic given all the different activities kids have after school these days. But one thing I intentionally do is make sure I look at their class list and learn every single kid’s name. When we lay down with them at night we talk to them about their day and get all the good stories about things that happened in school, playground dramas, etc. and I make sure to ask about any kid whose name didn’t come up. So it makes them have to think about every kid. Not just their best friends. And I really think it goes a long way to make them think about every kid. Especially the quiet or socially awkward kids that go unnoticed." -- Kerry Sadai
"We can’t overlook how books can be an amazing way to open up discussions with both your own children and with other parents. For the adult set (and even older teenage group), I’d recommend Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Michele Borba. I facilitated a parent book club at my school last year using this book, and everyone loved it. If we are looking to set our kids up for success socially and stress the importance of including others, than empathy is a great place to start. This book is super reader friendly with research that’s easy to understand and provides age-by-age strategies (“little ones, toddlers/preschoolers, school-age, tweens & older and all ages”) at the end of each chapter." -- Lauren Conway
"Read 'Enemy Pie.'" -- Karla Brooks Holt
(Editor's note: This article was originally published on August 13, 2018.)