How to Raise the Nice Kid in a World of Mean Girls

Learn how to raise kind kids with these easy parenting tips!

Updated: March 30, 2021

Raising kids is tough.  Raising kind kids is even harder.  Especially in today’s world, filled with social media, YouTube, and video games.  Kids can be bombarded with examples of mean behavior, and after so much exposure to it, they can begin to think that being disrespectful is the norm. 

But how do you combat the impact of a less than kind society? 

I’ve compiled a list of strategies and ideas to help you raise your children to be nice and treat others with kindness,  because there is no greater compliment you can receive as a parent than a complete stranger telling you that your kids are so polite and well-behaved.

*And after you’ve read this post on raising kind kids, be sure to check out this post on raising grateful kids!

girl holding a paper heart with text overlay "how to raise nice kids"

*This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.  To read my full disclosure, click here.

Model Kind Behavior

Your kids are always watching you.  Seeing how you handle certain situations.  They are little sponges looking to Mommy and Daddy and emulating your behavior.  So it’s your job to be a model of the nice and decent people that you want your kids to become.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been out to eat and overheard another diner being flat-out rude to a waiter.  In my opinion, there is never any circumstance that makes it okay to be mean/rude/nasty to another human being.  Especially because they accidentally refilled your sweet tea with unsweet.  And if your kids happen to be out to eat with you, and your waiter gets your order wrong, your kids will see how you handle that situation.  Make the right choice.  Make the kind choice.

If you make it a habit to talk down to others, then your kids are likely to do the same.  Treat people nicely, and your kids will likely be kind kids.

Treat Kids With Kindness (even in the hard times)

Take a breath before you talk to your kids.  Working with preschool-aged children, I was taught the “Smell the flower, blow out the candle” method.  Try it… Smell the Flower (take a deep breath in through your nose) and then Blow out the Candle (exhale through your mouth like you’re blowing out a candle).

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Just breathe.

When your child is working your last nerve, or you’re tired from a long day, it can be easy to lose your patience and get all Mean Mom.  But if you lose your patience and yell, then they will think that it is okay to yell like Mommy did. 

Speak to your children kindly, and they will be more likely to treat others kindly.  Raise kind kids by being nice yourself.

kids hands holding a paper heart

Limit Digital Use (and mean influences)

YouTube and social media can definitely have a negative influence on your kids, especially if they’re exposed to videos that are meant for older children. So many of the prank-style YouTube videos feature kids trying to deliberately upset/scare/embarrass others, and I don’t know about you, but that’s not the attitude that I want my kids to have.

Unless you are looking over their shoulders every second that they are using electronics, then it’s hard to know for sure exactly what your kids are being exposed to online and on social media.

Who hasn’t watched an online video of a prank, or seen someone online trash-talking another person?  Is this the behavior that you want your kids to emulate?  Limiting their exposure to mean behavior in digital form is an important step to raising nice kids.

four kind kids playing outside

Recognize Acts of Kindness

If you catch your child doing something kind, praise them.  Say, “I love how you helped your sister find her….”  Encourage positive behavior and kind acts by recognizing them.  Positively reinforce positive behaviors.  Most kids want to make their parents proud.  Let your kids know that you are proud of them for being kind.

Make a Kindness Jar with Coins

One great way to do this, especially if you have younger kids, is with a kindness jar.  A what?

A kindness jar is a jar/bucket/container that allows your child to actually “see” their acts of kindness and be rewarded for them. 

It works like this – Each time that you observe your child doing something kind (helping her sister find her lost book, sharing a toy, etc.), give them a “kindness coin” and have them put it in their kindness jar.  (Yes, “kindness coins” are a real thing – they actually sell them on Amazon).  Once the jar is full, treat your child to something fun like ice cream or a small toy.  A super simple and effective way to encourage kind behavior!

Want to start this in your house?  Check out these great “kindness coins” that you can get on Amazon!  And don’t forget, after the jar is full you can empty it and start again, reusing the same coins.

Use Printable Kindness Charts

You can also use free printable kindness charts to recognize your child’s acts of kindness. When you sign up for my free email newsletter using the form below, then you’ll get the password to my entire freebies library (filled with LOADS of great kids’ printables!) as a gift!

free printable kindness charts

Don’t Allow Unkind Words

Our kids aren’t allowed to say “hate”.  They aren’t even allowed to “hate” their peas.  Sure, they can “not like” their veggies.  But they can’t say, “I hate….”. 

We teach our kids to not “hate” anything.  Because “hate” is a strong word.  If you allow your kids to use mean words like “hate”, “stupid”, etc. then before you know it “hating” vegetables turns into “hating” that girl in class.  And a “stupid” inanimate object turns into a “stupid” classmate.

Don’t allow your kids to use negative and mean words that could one day be used to put down another person.  Instead teach kids that each person is an individual, and that you never really know what is going on in someone else’s life, so it’s not fair to judge them or call them names.  That boy in class may be mean because he has a rough home life.  You never know what someone else is going through, so it’s important to treat everyone you encounter with respect.

Raise nice kids that don’t use hateful words.

Instill an Attitude of Gratitude

Grateful kids are kind kids, so teach your children how to be thankful and appreciative.

You can go here for some awesome gratitude activities for kids, or learn about how to use a gratitude journal for kids and grab these free printable journal pages:

daily gratitude journal for kids printable pages

Teach Respect

R-E-S-P-E-C-T… Aretha taught us how to spell it… but if you want to raise nice kids, it’s your job to teach it.

Teach your kids to respect their elders.  Teach them to give up their chair to the elderly woman in a crowded room, or hold the door open for the lady struggling to get her stroller through a doorway (we’ve all been there, right?!).

And teach them to respect you.  Children should know that you are the parent.  You are the boss.  Don’t allow your children to speak down to you or talk back.

Raise Kind Kids by Saying “No”

I tell my kids “No”.  A lot.  Even though my husband doesn’t think I tell them “No” enough.  The last thing that I want is for my kids to feel like they are entitled to something – or everything. 

Telling them “No” doesn’t make you a bad parent.  It prepares them for real life.  Don’t give in.  Stand your ground.  If you give in and say “Yes” to avoid making a scene, then your child will pick up on that.  By saying “Yes” you are just reaffirming to them that they can have whatever they want if they cry loudly enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always say “No”.  Every now and then I say “Yes” to a treat or a small toy, if I feel that my kids have earned it.  But, when I do say “Yes” I make sure to give them a reason for why I am saying yes.  Like “Yes, we can get ice cream because you both have done such a great job all week keeping your playroom clean.”

And if you feel like you’re using the word “no” too frequently then read this post: Don’t Be the Mean Mom! 7 Strategies to Tell Kids No Without Saying No

Give Kids Opportunities to Show Compassion

Kids need to know that they are blessed.  And kids need to know that there are a TON of people out there that are way less fortunate than they are.  Teach kids to be grateful for what they have, and teach them to show compassion towards others.

When I was in high school, my family took a few trips to the Dominican Republic.  Yes, we did pack bathing suits and flip flops, but we also packed suitcases full of toys, toiletries, clothes, and shoes to take to children living in small villages and orphanages around the country.  Seeing the pure joy on the faces of those children when you hand them a new pair of shoes… you would have thought you were giving them an iphoneX.  Visiting these kids that lived in 10′ x 10′ houses with concrete walls and dirt floors taught me early on to have compassion.

And now I try to teach my girls the same thing.

boy holding a box of toys labeled donations

When my 8 year old daughter wanted to donate ALL of her piggy bank money (about $38) to a little boy at her school who had been diagnosed with cancer, I could not have been more proud.

It doesn’t have to be a huge, expensive gesture… buy a Christmas gift for a child on the Angel Tree, take cookies to the elderly woman down the street that lives by herself, or let your kids drop a few dollars into the bucket for the Salvation Army.  Just make it a point to provide the opportunity for them to show compassion to others.

Encouraging random acts of kindness is a great way to do this!

Raise nice kids by raising compassionate kids.

As I said, these are my tips that I have used to raise nice kids myself.  I tell my husband at least once a week how blessed we are to have such wonderful, caring, all-around good children. 

What are your parenting tips for how to raise nice kids?  I’d love to hear what works for you!  Leave a comment below and, if you found these tips helpful, share them with a Mommy friend!

And check out some of my other popular parenting posts:

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  1. This should be a mandatory read for everyone. I am the proud mother of three wonderful adult children. Everything you wrote sounds like how i raised my children, how to treat others, look at things, appreciate things, be grateful. I especially like the not allowed to use the word hate (or ugly, everyone and everything is beautiful in its own way. I have worked with children as a day care provider, then teachers assistant, and know the importance of your words and actions. First book i read each year, is “please don’t step on me”. It’s insects talking to humans, asking them to be kind, don’t hurt or step on me. It leaves room for an open discussion about kindness, compassion, and explaining how everything and everyone has a purpose on our earth. I love the article, its almost like i wrote it myself. I have grandchildren, and i hope i taught my children to pass this way of thinking on to their children. Great job, thank you.

    1. Hi Bonnie! Thanks so much for your sweet comment! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post… I will definitely have to check out that children’s book that you recommended. 🙂

  2. I really enjoyed reading this! We are our children’s first teachers, and we can talk until we’re blue in the face, but at the end of the day, the way we treat our kids, the way we respond to them, and the way we act when situations are emotionally charged – those are the things that really matter. And yes, not being afraid to say no! I feel like so many parents give in to keep their kids quiet, and to avoid others from staring, but we just have to learn to block that out, and focus on what our kid needs. And, in those instances of entitlement, they NEED to learn to be told no. Because, giving in to keep them from feeling negative emotions, really only hurts them worse in the long run. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Yes, to all of that! I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks so much for your thoughtful comment!

  3. Parenting is such a tough job. Our role isn’t to be “The Boss” our roles is to support our children to be prepared for the adult world. Their job is not to be automatons with no sense of self.

    They don’t need to be taught respect, they benefit more from learning from you modelling respecting them. No child should ever be forced to kiss relatives if they don’t want to. Children need to learn their own boundaries, so that they are able to be safe when parents are not around.

    Having an attitude that children need to be “forced” to do anything sets you all up for failure and difficult navigation of issues. Rather when a child, especially a child under 10 is having difficulty with meeting expectations, it is a difficulty they are experiencing.

    Young children are never deliberately being disobedient, no matter how much you believe that. Instead of feeling like a victim of your child’s behaviour, consider who is the adult in the situation and behave like a caring adult who is dealing with someone who is not coping, in that moment.

    Stop and breath, and then listen to them, without judgement or defensiveness. You might be surprised at what you learn, that means you can make even better choices to support growing a human that is fit for adult human interaction consumption.

    All parents are doing the best we know how in that moment, always. This is not an opportunity to feel shame or guilt if you resonate with the behaviours, it is an opportunity to learn and grow so that that you can all succeed together.

    1. Thanks, Leanne, for your thoughtful comment! I absolutely agree that by modeling kind and decent behavior, we are teaching our kids to be kind people. Kids are like little sponges that soak up all of the things (positive and negative) that they witness. Like when my husband recently burned his hand on a hot pan and accidentally said “Oh, sh*t! That’s hot!”. And in a very helpful word of warning to her sister, my 6 year old daughter said “Careful sissy, that sh*t is hot!”. Haha. Like you said, we are all doing our best. And it’s important to be able to laugh at little face-in-palm moments like that! Thanks again for your words of wisdom!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this. I do believe mothers like us that force these positive manner’s onto our children will have a great future.

  5. Thankyou so much for sharing your good tips to raising nicer kids and I hope they listen !!