Kindness is arguably the most valuable quality that a person can have. In a world where divisiveness and discrimination are under the microscope, it is clear that parents have a duty to ensure the next generation carry forward ideals of openness and inclusivity. But how do we raise kind children, especially when they seem to have ‘I want’ on the tip of their tongue at all times, and they scream and shout at the thought of sharing their toys?
If you are a parent and are keen for your children to grow up to be kind and empathetic people, here are some key tips to keep in mind.
Encourage Them To Use Their Imagination
Children have incredible imaginations, and they are naturally empathetic, so give them plenty of chances to put these natural qualities to the test. When you are reading a bedtime story, ask them to imagine how the characters might be feeling. If they drop their doll, ask them how they will make her feel better.
Putting themselves in the shoes of other people regularly will encourage automatic empathy as they grow older and help them to be mindful of how their actions can impact on the lives of others. Click here for some children’s books about kindness.
Reinforce Kind Acts In Everyday Life
There are some acts of kindness and politeness that we should teach children to do out of routine and habit. They may not see the importance of saying please and thank you the store clerk, or thanking their bus driver, offering to help clear the plates, asking to be excused from the dinner table, or sharing their toys with their siblings, but the earlier these acts become routine, the better.
Positive reinforcement is the best form of teaching, so rather than telling children off when they forget to be kind, try to praise them when they do something kind of their own accord.
Acknowledge That Kindness Is Not Always Easy
It is important that our children realize that it is not always easy to choose kindness. Sometimes, other people can be irritating, rude, or even nasty, but that does not mean that we should treat them badly in return.
On the other hand, in some cases the kindest action might be to stick up for a friend, to console someone who is very sad, or to help someone through a complex personal problem. Kindness can be challenging, but the more we practice it, the more naturally it comes.
Be A Role Model
Children learn through imitation, so it is vital that you demonstrate kindness in your interactions with others when you are with them. Be kind to your children, your partner, your family, your friends, and strangers.
From saying please and thank you to hugging someone who is sad, sharing with those in need, cooking food for a sick neighbor, or spending time with someone who is lonely, all of these things will enable you to model the kindness you want them to take into adulthood. You could even make a donation to a charity with your children by your side.
Show Them The Effect Of Kindness
One of the most powerful motivators for being kind is witnessing the impact our kindness has on others. Ask your child to think about how people react when they are kind to them. Do they smile? Are they kind to them and other people in return? Is the world a nicer place to be when we are kind to each other? Also, how does your child feel when they know they have been kind to someone else? Gradually, you will show them that we all have something to gain from being kind to one another.