posted by Talk About Giving blog team
September 27, 2011 @ 12:29 pm
While kindness is an intrinsic value, today’s world sends our children all sorts of conflicting messages about compassion, empathy and how we should treat others. And along with that natural tendency for kindness, small children are also naturally self-centered, making it difficult to understand that our needs are not more important than others.
As parents, we can foster kind and compassionate behavior in our children and influence the natural tendency with which our children consider others. Here are six tips to help guide you in bringing out the best in them.
- Promote nice behavior. Good habits such as nice manners, understanding gentle vs. rough behavior and understanding that rudeness will not be tolerated can start when your children are just learning to talk, play and communicate.
- Teach them to consider others. Introduce them to the fact that other people have feelings, too. This is difficult for younger children to grasp, but looking for examples and asking your children questions like: “How do you think that man feels right now?” or “Do you think that lady is having a good day?” will help them begin to understand this concept. Take advantage of teaching moments with your child’s behavior and actions and ask questions like: “How would you feel if someone did that to you?” or “How do you think your friends feel when you talk that way?” Pointing out these observations will help them put themselves in other’s shoes.
- Point out their kind deeds. When you see your children acting kindly to others, be sure to point it out to them. Tell them how you and/or others feel about their behaviour. For example, if you see your child sharing nicely, tell him: “What a good friend you are.” or “I bet your friend feels good when you share with her.”
- Make them own it. By setting expectations in advance we can guide our children’s behavior and then correct as needed. For example, prior to a play date have a conversation about what you expect from them. Statements like “I’m counting on you to …” will get them thinking about what’s right in advance of situations.
- Remember they’re watching you. Keep in mind that your kids are watching the way you treat others and how you treat them. Remember your tone of voice, avoid trash talking others, name calling, and pay attention to the way you and your spouse handle conflict. We all have our moments, so apologize when you’ve been out of line. Show them that even their parents can admit when they’re wrong.
- Expose them to need. Research indicates that kindness and sharing are directly correlated with happiness. Provide them with opportunities to help others and teach compassion for those in need.
Suggested reading for parents:
- Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times, by Zoe Weil
- A Short Course in Kindness: A Little Book on the Importance of Love and the Relative Unimportance of Just About Everything Else, By Margot Silk Forrest
Suggested reading for families: