We all want to make the world a better place. And raising kind children is part of it. But kindness for kids doesn’t always happen by accident.
We have to intentionally raise our children to be kind, and practice kind behavior daily. Studies show that kindness makes children happier, reduces stress, and improves self-esteem. Kind actions activate the joyful area of the brain, and boost well-being.
Evidence shows that many children are inclined to be helpful and altruistic. But there is much we can do to both teach and reinforce this behavior. Reinforcing and modeling this aspect of social emotional development is key. Here are 7 simple ways to encourage kindness in your child, and to help them understand what really matters.
If you want to raise children who are kind and compassionate, start by modeling these skills. Parents who respect others will naturally teach their children to do the same. Consider your interactions at home. How do you speak to the people you love? After moments of frustration or anger, do you talk about it and apologize (if needed)?
As your child grows, they will watch how you treat others too. And there’s plenty you can do–from putting your phone down and smiling at a cashier to holding the door for a stranger.
Opportunities for modeling kindness for kids happen all the time. We just have to look for them!
To be considerate of others, children must understand how they think and feel. Perspective-taking skills help kids make others feel comfortable and interpret their needs. Get your child into the practice of asking, “What would that feel like?” or “How would I feel if that happened to me?” In tricky situations, have her stop and think of how she’d like to be treated.
When your child witnesses another person struggling, reflect on moments she may have felt the same way. Talk about these past experiences, and what she would have wanted to happen. Then decide if there’s a way to help.
Kindness towards others is only half the picture. Children must also learn to extend compassion and love towards themselves. Start by talking about how we treat our friends–we listen, behave respectfully, and build them up when they’re down. We can treat ourselves with the same kindness we would a dear friend.
You can also model self-compassion by eating well, getting enough sleep, and talking to yourself in a kind way. The next time you make a mistake, or things don’t go as planned, verbalize how you still love and appreciate yourself.
As children, many of us were told not to speak of others unless we had something nice to say. With mindful speech, children pause before speaking to ensure their words are kind.
Of course there will still be times your child’s words are hurtful or unkind. In these instances, talk about what happened, and what she would do differently next time. You can also make a plan for apologizing to the other person, and working to make it right.
In our busy world, polite and mannerly interactions with others go a long way. Kindness can start with simply saying “please” and “thank you.” There are plenty of other ways to help your child practice good manners, and you can never start too soon. Children as young as two can say “hello” when spoken to.
Other polite habits to practice:
– Apologizing for negative behavior (“I’m sorry I took your toy.”)
– Waiting his turn to speak
– Shaking hands or saying “good game” after a competitive event
– Using a quiet (“inside”) voice during a playdate
– Writing a thank-you card after receiving a gift
Volunteering can mean many things. We can share our time, resources, or abilities. Encourage charitable behavior in your child by tapping into her passions and interests. If she loves animals, she can donate to an animal shelter, or walk adoptable dogs. A child who appreciates nature might want to collect trash at a local park.
You might also consider volunteering together as a family. Your family will grow closer and stronger, while helping others too.
One of the best parts of being kind is that it feels good. Talk with your child about how performing even small acts of kindness can bring him joy. Each time we do something nice, we bring happiness to others (and ourselves too). While we don’t behave kindly only for the reward, it’s certainly a nice bonus.
Point out how your child feels when he is treated with kindness to help him develop gratitude. Once he recognizes how good it feels to both give and receive kindness, it will be easy to maintain this behavior.
The benefits of kindness for kids are clear. Children who are kind to others feel happier, more connected and less stressed. Nurturing kindness in children is key, and daily life provides plenty of opportunities for practice. Most importantly, be sure to model kindness in your interactions with others, as your child will naturally watch and learn.
Written by Alexandra Eidens.
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