Georgia mom finds ways to teach children kindness

Lynn Patterson's girls, 9-year old Claire and 7-year old Laura, will get their share presents this Christmas. But the real gift Lynn she wants for them isn't under the tree.

"It comes from experiences," Patterson says.  "I think we as parents, fall into a trap.  We want to go buy things. It's fun."

But Patterson is teaching her girls kindness.Recently they dropped by the DeKalb County Lifeline Animal Shelter, one of several places where they give back.

"We play with the puppies and the kitties," says Claire Patterson."We go to the homeless shelter and give out my Girl Scout cookies."

Pediatrician and Web MD Senior Medical Editor Dr. Hansa Bhargava, mother of twins, says it's natural, and not a bad thing, for kids to want presents during the holidays.

"But I also think it's great for kids to also learn to give presents, to give kindness," Dr. Bhargava says.  "Kindness has been shown in several studies to actually build resilience. So, if you're compassionate towards others, you get to be stronger inside and have the ability to take more on in life."

So Lynn Patterson is teaching her girls to practice kindness, every day, with acts big and small, hoping kindness becomes habit, just part of who they are.

"But you have to do that as a parent," she says.  "You have to go with them, and take them, and not just send them off. Or say, isn't this a great idea and then never take them. Some of the nicest things I've ever seen, and the most exciting, is when my kids could do something for someone else."

And kindness, Patterson says, starts with you.

"Your kids are watching how you interact with that crossing guard, how you do interact with another parent," she says.

At the tender age of 9, Claire Patterson is learning giving back feels good.

"I feel really happy that I help somebody out, and I feel like they feel really happy, too," she says.