Nowadays, it seems like parents are solely focused on their children’s academic goals. What happened to kindness and compassion? Parents play a key role in encouraging their children to become respectful and responsible members of society, and it should be our top priority – not grades or social status. Kindness is the gateway to empathy, a lifelong virtue that helps our children become more attached to loved ones, develop healthier relationships with others, and handle simple daily interactions.
As a parent of two young children I am constantly reminding them about what it means to be gracious and compassionate – and I do my best to show them through my actions, as opposed to only preaching about it. Presenting my children with these learning experiences helps shape their values and also provides them with opportunities to develop kindness and nurture the building blocks necessary for them to develop gratitude, empathy, and compassion. No matter your child’s age, it’s never too early or too late to start emphasizing the importance of caring for one another.
Here are 6 ways to raise kind children:
1. Be an example
As parents we know that our little ones are like sponges, picking up on behaviour that they see around them. Not only is it our duty to explicitly remind our children or provide examples of kindness to them, we must also remember that our actions speak louder than words. By setting a constant example of how a kind person should behave, our actions will become second nature to our children and they will learn to lead by example, even when we’re not around.
2. Talk about kindness
As with any other value that we try to instil in our children, kindness comes over time, with a lot of practice and constant reminders. It’s important to keep a consistent dialogue open about kindness and use concrete situations or examples to help put theory into practice. Over time, kids will innately revert to choosing to be kind, and for those times when they don’t, they will still be able to reflect on their actions.
3. Teach through books
Children love books, and what better way to bring up the topic of kindness than by reading them books that focus on it. Instead of just reading the words, question your child about where they see kindness in the story, or where perhaps it lacks. Some great books for kids include ‘Have You Filled A Bucket Today‘, ‘A Sick Day For Amos McGee‘, and ‘The Giving Tree‘.
4. Teach them how to chose their words appropriately
Children don’t automatically know how to show empathy and compassion. As parents, we need to explain the importance of thinking before you speak and how they can use their voice in a kind, and respectful way. They need to be reminded of the harm they can inflict on someone by simply using unkind words, whether it’s intentional or not.
5. Say sorry
Children aren’t perfect, and neither are adults. In fact, most adults often forget about compassion and kindness – especially when those closest to us, including our kids, push us to the limit. It’s natural for us to sometimes react in an unfavourable way however, the most important thing you can teach your child is to say ‘sorry.’ Apologizing means accepting that you’re wrong, which means you’ve reflected on your behaviour, and are willing to take responsibility for your actions.
6. Don’t criticize their efforts
Kindness starts at home. As parents, we should continually provide our children with opportunities to be kind – by letting them clean the house, wash dishes, or help with dinner, even if it means taking double the amount of time to complete. We need to be patient with their efforts because if we’re not, we can easily turn a teachable moment into a missed opportunity. If we allow them to make a difference at home that they can feel good about, then they will want to accomplish more in the real world.