Oftentimes, it feels like adults have something to learn from kids when it comes to kindness and loving each other. However, parents still have a serious role in teaching their kiddos the importance of being genuinely caring little people.
According to research conducted by Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd and published in the Washington Post, 80 percent of kids studied thought their parents were more focused on their achievements or personal happiness than whether they cared for others. “Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood,” the researchers wrote.
No matter your child’s age, it’s never too early or late to start emphasizing the importance of caring for one another. Read on for 11 impactful ways parents can help children understand the value of this attribute.
Parents know that children pick up on their traits and words even when they don’t intend for it. Kids demonstrate these characteristics both in front of adults and when they aren’t around. By being an unrelenting example of how people should be treated in every situation, your actions will become second nature so your child can follow in your lead even when you aren’t there.
In order for kids to understand the grand impact that their altruistic acts can have, they need to expand their view of the world. By removing them for their own little bubble, they not only learn gratitude for what they have but can also develop a passion to help those who are less fortunate while understanding the scope of their needs.
Like every value you work to instill in your child, kindness comes over time. Work to develop this mindset by continually focusing on it and coming up with creative ways to do for others. It’s also essential to maintain a consistent and open dialogue surrounding it. Value kindness as you would any other achievement and be sure to praise your child when they do well while also constructively discussing when they could do better.
Children don’t automatically realize the major impact that their words — both compassionate and insensitive — can have on another person unless the are taught. Explain the importance of using their voice for kindness and making them aware of the harm that their actions can do, whether it’s intended or not.
Just like words, a smile is a powerful tool and can completely change a person’s mood. Show your child that their body language is an important way to connect with someone and show respect, even in passing. Emphasize how easy it is to smile more, even to the stranger on the street, in order to spread warmth to a world that is often filled with those who are too rushed to even consider smiling.
There are age-appropriate ways to start teaching empathy to every age group. Instead of assuming your child is too young, realize that it’s always important to focus on kindness and how their actions impact others. This will help to raise little people who not only value considerate treatment but also demonstrate it.
Nobody is too old too be nice or is already too kind to do anymore. Work on being altruistic with your child to show that it applies to everyone, not just children, and create opportunities to teach random acts of kindness. Hands-on experience and the ability to see the impact they can have is a powerful lesson.
Although helping others feels amazing and should be noted, if your child only learns to spread kindness with an expectation of what they will get in return, it defeats the purpose. Help them work on appreciating what others feel and gain instead of thinking about what they can get out of their nice act or sweet attitude.
While some focus solely on what grade a child gets or if they win or lose, shift your focus to what they did in the process in order to emphasize the importance of kindness. If a kid is so focused on always winning or rushing to be the first, stopping to help the child who fell down or taking time out to support another student in need might not even occur to them.
By focusing on teamwork and fostering a collaborative environment, you’re enforcing to your child that it isn’t just about “us” against “them.” Instead, you’re making a point to instill in your kiddo that ultimately, everyone is a team and should be treated equally with kindness, dignity, and respect.
Kids should always know that kindness is expected at all times and not just when they are on their best behavior. Instead of making excuses for when little ones are cranky or rude, like saying it’s okay because she hasn’t had a nap today or he’s just disappointed with his grade, use these moments to teach your child how to do better during the hard times instead of taking it out on others.
March 17, 2017