If nothing else, this world needs more kindness. Between the media and daily life, it seems as though unkind actions are portrayed more than those random acts of kindness. The best way to instill kindness is by creating a culture in your own home that values kindness and raising a generation of kind children.
All parents want the best for their children. You’ve probably told your children to “play nicely” with their siblings or friends, and you may have had to stop a temper tantrum or two.
Over time, your children will learn about kindness, and fortunately, there are ways to encourage that within your family. It’s a natural human desire to show compassion and empathy towards others. You can lecture your children all you want, but the best way to teach kindness is by showing them.
Parents, here’s how to raise kind children. With your words and actions, you can raise a generation with compassion and kindness running through every vein of their bodies.
Model Kindness at Home and in Public
Perhaps the greatest method to raise kind kids is to model kindness at home and in public. Your children look up to you and learn from you for nearly everything — how to walk, talk, what they should eat, how to care for themselves and so on. This means they notice your every action and word, so if you’re unkind, they think it’s okay.
Treat your children kindly and set an example for kind and thoughtful conversation with your spouse, partner, friends or other children. Show your children what kindness can look like, such as helping a sibling pick up toys or holding the door open for someone in public. You should also be kind to yourself and model good personal actions, like getting enough sleep or seeking support.
Define What Kindness Means
As a family, define with your children what kindness means. Use appropriate language for the age of your child. You can start talking about kindness before your kids are even old enough to put words into action. Kids develop empathy from a young age. That’s why you may notice your toddler getting upset when they see a friend fall at the playground.
As your children get older, you can have discussions about kindness with them. For example, you can tell them to treat others the way you want to be treated. Use examples of kindness to define what kindness means, too.
Brainstorm Ways to Practice Kindness
When you’re with your entire family, have a conversation about ways everyone can practice kindness. Compile a list of things kind people do for other people or even for themselves. Here are a few examples to get you started:
- Someone holds the door open for someone coming into a store behind them
- People stop on the side of the road to help someone change their flat tire
- You offer a meal to someone who looks hungry or in need
- A student stands up for someone who is bullied
- You pick up trash that someone left on the sidewalk
- You personally practice good hygiene and get help when you need it
- A child shares their lunch with someone who forgot theirs at home
- Someone gives a compliment to a stranger
There are so many other ways to be kind. Take turns as a family making a list of kind actions and words, and then encourage your children to do some of those things when the opportunity arises.
Practicing inclusion is something that will be extremely valuable to kids as they grow older. In the media, kids may notice that not everyone is inclusive. Talk first about what it means to include others with your children. Use simple examples, like sitting with a child at lunch who was all alone or playing with someone who looks different from them.
Between racism, sexism and ableism, millions of people feel hurt and excluded every day. Teach your child that excluding someone because of their disability, the color of their skin, ethnicity or gender is unkind and encourage them to make a diverse set of friends.
Reward Acts of Kindness
Rewarding your child for every act of kindness isn’t realistic, and it isn’t necessary either. Kindness is expected from people — you don’t get a dollar or a piece of candy every time you compliment someone or hold the door open for a stranger. However, when your child performs a significant act of kindness on their own, it’s something to be rewarded.
Reward your child when they do an uncommon act of kindness. For example, if they save their allowance to donate to a child in their class who has cancer or if they willingly volunteer to pick up trash for a few hours along the road, then you can reward them. This will further instill that they should be kind to others no matter what the situation is. However, let them know that they should continue to be kind out of their own heart and not for praise or rewards.
Read Books or Watch Movies About Kindness
Finally, you can read books and watch movies or television shows that teach kindness. Some children learn better when they can read or visualize what kindness looks like rather than talking about it.
Search for books and movies with kindness and compassion as the primary message. As you read the story or watch the show, ask your child questions to help them think about and relate to the characters.
Spread the Kindness
Teaching your children at a young age what it means to be kind sets them up for future success. The world can always use more kindness, so use these tips to help build a generation of caring and compassionate people.