Kindness is a quality that makes or breaks a person's character. Just like you learn reading, writing, and walking, kindness is learned over time. Kids learn empathy, service, and compassion through watching their parents and practicing it themselves.
But when kids are younger, they tend to speak their minds, no matter how outrageous it may be. That is why it is essential to teach kids the importance of kindness and practicing it from an early age.
All the great thinkers in the world, from the Dalai Lama to Martin Luther Jr. King, have one thing in common; they are soft-spoken, and they understand it is essential to help others. According to these great thinkers and leaders, doing good deeds is rewarding for you and others too. On top of that, studies and researches conducted throughout the decades show that teaching kindness to kids helps them be happy, confident, and stress-free.
Kindness in children can only be fostered by intentionally raising them to be compassionate and kind. There is a lot parents can do to reinforce this behavior in children and help their social-emotional development with it. This article takes you through 7 simple to follow methods to teach your child how to be kind and motivate them to understand why it happens.
What is kindness?
Kindness is any behavior marked by generosity, concern, and consideration without intentions for a reward. Kindness is a behavior driven by compassion and goodness without any ulterior motives.
Kindness is being a helping hand not because you have to, but because you want to.
A kind heart can empathize genuinely and has the intention of helping anyone with their resources. It is easy for thoughtful people to understand other people's experiences, be present for them, and respect their needs.
As a result of this, they maintain friendships and are well respected. Like many human traits, kindness is how you perceive yourself and an extension of it, whereas qualities like being good and nice are how people see you.
When it comes to teaching kindness to children, the first step is to know how children see kindness. Studies by researchers show that children often relate kindness to respecting people and helping others. Yes, this is a good image of kindness to be portrayed to children, but this is not all.
"Genuine kindness is all about being kind because you want to, not because you have to or you are getting some kind of reward for it," she says.
- Model kindness
The best way to teach kids kindness is to model these traits to them. Children do as they see, and if parents are kind and soft-spoken, kids will naturally follow. Start with monitoring your interactions at home.
Ask yourself, how are you speaking to your family? How do you speak in moments of frustration? Do you apologize when needed?
When children watch their parents being compassionate and calm, they replicate it. They learn to be soft and caring; they understand that it's important to live with care for their own selves and others.
All you have to do is smile often, ask others how they feel, and do random acts of kindness. Look out for others, and your little ones would follow.
- Teach social cues
Children are not experienced with social contact, and that too a variety of it. Most of the emotions they know are from parents and their schoolmates (if they go to school); that's why you have to teach them about social cues before expecting kindness from kids.
Just like you can't send your children to school without lunch, you can't send them out without the idea of social cues; it is that important.
To help them get a better understanding of social cues, you can practice with them. You can either teach them about expressions through placards or actual people.
There are placards with emotions available in the market that you can purchase or print them off the internet. You can go to the park for real-life experience and watch people let your child guess their feelings. This game is called "Guess The Feeling."
This all will help your child to act on non-verbal cues. Start from basic cues like happiness, excitement, sadness, and anger, followed by dealing with it. It will help kids find the meaning behind emotions and understand how to be kind to people in different situations.
- Put things into perspective
Compassion needs active imagination; you need to step into someone else's shoes.
Once your kid understands how someone feels, it is easier for them to be gentle towards them. Putting things into perspective unties the tangles of tricky steps to be kind towards others.
Understanding someone else's perspective helps kids be comfortable doing acts of kindness and know what they need emotionally and physically. To be considerate of others, children must understand how they think and feel.
Ask your kids how it would feel if it happened to you, what it feels like, and if this is a nice thing to say. As you ask your kids these questions, get your kids into the habit of asking these questions too.
Give them a moment to think and interpret the situation. It will help your kid make better decisions and analyze the consequences their actions may have on others.
This method helps your child reflect on their actions, enhances their actions, and takes steps to follow the path they consider the best. To enhance your kid's thinking and engagement, you can also try these easy activities for kids.
- Encourage self-compassion
A pot that isn't fully baked can not contain water without leaking and dripping. Like they say, charity begins at home; without being focused and strong themselves, kids can not be kind outside. The compassion they need to show outside should also be developed inside them.
Compassion should be an extension of your kids.
To teach children the importance of taking care of themselves, you can read inspiring stories to kids. They will learn that their heroes and inspirations respect themselves as much as they help others. The kids will get a good night's sleep, and they learn a good lesson as well.
Another step towards your child's high self-esteem is talking to them about others. Show them while telling them how they want to help their loved ones when they are down. They need to help themselves in times of despair as well; after all, your kids are going to be with themselves for the longest.
Teach your kids to be their dearest friends.
The best way to cultivate self-compassion in kids is to model it. Show your children the importance of sleep by taking proper sleep yourself, eat well so the kids will eat well, and speak to yourself as kindly as you'd want them to speak to themselves. Verbalize your feelings and apologies, so your kids know as much as it matters to them, it matters to you as well how they see themselves.
- Use mindful speech
You must remember the advice given to you as kids; think before you speak. This advice holds true even while teaching your children about compassion. This is the power of mindful speech, so your kids learn to speak only when they have something good to say, and they'll eventually learn themselves.
Thoughtful speech helps your child develop their mind and critical thinking. It allows them to make better decisions based on their know-how. When your kids learn to analyze their words before they speak, they use kinder words and be polite in general.
One way you can inculcate mindfulness into your kids is to teach them The Three Gates. The three gates theory of teaching kindness to children says before you speak, ask yourself If your words are true? Are they kind? Are they helpful?
If you are in doubt and your words do not meet these criteria, they are better left unsaid. You can teach your kids this technique with patience and kindness.
- Instill good manners
You must relate to kind words bringing a smile to your face. A hearty good morning and a genuine thanks can brighten anyone's day, and it's the least you can do to teach kids kindness.
In this hectic world, words of kindness can make someone's day.
It is rightly said that you may never know what goes through someone's mind. Just like a few harsh words can take a toll on someone, kind words often inspire people in ways even you may not realize.
To teach your kids kind words, start with the basic golden words, please, sorry, and thank you. Use these words at home to cultivate good manners in children from an early age.
Teach them to greet people with a good morning, good afternoon, or a simple hello. And as soon as your kid gets old enough to talk, you can help them understand its importance.
Followed by greetings and golden words, you can extend your kid's compassion vocabulary with more soft sayings like below:
- Encourage your kid to apologize for any behavior that is not appropriate. For example, if they play with another kid and take their toy, help them apologize and say sorry.
- After your kid gets older, teach them to wait for their turns while speaking. Once they understand what others are saying is as essential as their own words, they will listen and patiently wait for their turn to speak.
- Guide kids to cultivate sportsmanship. Yes, competition is good but healthy competition builds morale and teaches a person. That is why start by guiding your kids to shake hands and understand a good game.
- Ask your kids to write a thank you card every time they receive a gift until they learn to do it independently. This shows they are grateful and well-mannered.
- Help others
The most apparent form of kindness known to us all is helping others. Kindness isn't just helping someone with words and needs; it's helping someone with time, resources, and all your abilities.
Kindness nurtures togetherness; it makes room for gratefulness.
To help someone with kindness, enlighten your child with charitable passions and interests. When you tap into your children's interests, you also lead them towards a way of life. If you cultivate charitable habits like helping animals and appreciating nature, children, your kid can learn empathy and compassion much better than any lesson taught.
To foster these values in your children, help them take up extracurricular activities and habits. There are many kid's activities for fun that are perfect for teaching them important life lessons. Children can also visit an animal shelter once in a while, walk pets in a park, help with routine cleaning, trash collection, and whatnot.
For the values you want to instill in your little one, there is an activity. You can do family volunteering, too; it will help you bond while your children learn kindness.
- Find goodness
Even though kids possess a self-centered demeanor, they are also very good at making friends. No matter what they chatter about, they are always bubbling with excitement and energy. You can channel this talkative nature to develop friendliness in children.
Just like kids are eager to talk about themselves, kids are just eager to talk.
If you want your child to be outgoing and friendly from the very first meeting:
- Take them outside.
- Ask them to notice people and find one good thing to say about them.
- Start slowly but when they do, accompany them to the person and help them express themselves.
This won't only be a practice, but this will be a chance to make a stranger's day.
Tip: Ask your kid to avoid going to strangers alone. The stranger danger still applies, and your kid may even get lost.
This doesn't only apply to strangers, but you also need to be kind to your acquaintances as well. After all, finding goodness is another way of spreading kindness.
- Notice the effects of kindness
Have you noticed how good it feels after doing a good deed, even when no one else noticed you doing it? This is one of the best parts about being kind, happiness and contentment.
And what better way to teach children kindness (or almost anything) by associating joy with it. If you designate happiness as a result of kindness, kids will be keener to learn about kindness.
Link this concept with stories and tales that promote the message that kindness brings joy to others and your own self too. It isn't just a wave of excitement; it's a wholesome feeling that is incomparable to anything else. An example of a story that teaches the lesson of kindness and happiness is "Have You Filled A Bucket Today?" by Carol McCloud.
Overall, the point of this step is to make your kids understand that a wholesome feeling of gratitude, happiness, and contentment can be achieved through kindness. This feel-good result will encourage children to maintain kind behavior.
Now that you know the most important steps you need to teach your kids kindness, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about compassion and kindness in kids and parenting tips to know. Dive deeper into how to teach these important lessons to kids with simple steps for every new parent.
Is it rude to tease your children?
It is very common in families to tease each other, especially children. Although a joke here and there doesn’t hurt anyone, kids can’t often take intense teasing. It is for you to judge when teasing may be getting out of hand and it would be a good time to stop.
If your child ends up leaving the room, crying, or responds negatively to teasing in general, they are not liking the teasing.
Instead of trying to make them understand the meaning behind it or asking them to take a joke, you need to respect their feelings. Be kinder to children and use a more gentle form of playfulness.
Always remember, mean taunting will deplete your child’s self esteem and they will accept mean behavior outside too. Moreover, it may be difficult for them to remain strong and kind too.
How to hold children accountable?
Just like adults need to be held accountable and realize when to stop, children also need to know when to stop. It is your duty to tell them how to act responsibly and how to do it.
First of all, When your child's behavior is affecting those around them – point it out. Let your child know how they are affecting others without shaming them.
An example might be something like, "You hit her, and now she is so sad. Look at that red mark you left on her face. You wouldn't want her to put a red mark on your face.
I would be very upset with her if she hurt you. I love you both and don't want either of you hurt."
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