Five ways to encourage kindness

Kindness, gentleness, honesty, perseverance – most parents recognize the need to instill good values in their children but how many actually know how? Many parents show their love through discipline, ensuring their child’s well-being, and naturally, their education. Those are all critical, but let’s be honest, those things don’t teach children how to be gentle and warm. Parents can easily become overwhelmed by what they think they should be doing as parents, constantly questioning if they are doing things right. The reality is teaching your child to be kind really isn’t that difficult. Children already have a predisposition to want to help. Parents simply have to foster and reinforce this value. Here are a few simple ways to steer kids in the right direction.

What kindness looks like

For children to understand and develop kindness, they must know what it looks like. One of the most important things parents can do is model kind behavior. Children learn from watching others, their parents in particular. Never underestimate a child’s ability to observe. Even when you may think they aren’t paying attention, that’s often when they are paying the most. They overhear your conversations and observe how you handle different situations. Do you lose your temper easily? Do you raise your voice or shout when you get angry?  Here’s a simple suggestion: watch your tone. By keeping your tone of voice respectful your child will notice and copy this behavior. So take the opportunity to exhibit good behavior throughout the day. All the teaching in the world can be undone if your child sees you behave in a manner that contradicts what you’ve taught.

Be on the lookout

Be on the lookout for opportunities for children to help. Encouraging kids to help others whenever they can will develop their awareness of being kind and considerate. There are many opportunities for children to be helpful through simple acts of kindness. Whether it’s holding the department store door for a mom with her hands full or befriending the new kid at school, it’s remarkable how helpful kids can be if properly encouraged. When you catch your child being helpful, be sure to give them a little praise; in doing so that they will recognize the intrinsic value of being kind and help more often.

Discourage negativity

With so many outside influences, teaching a child to be kind may have a few challenges. Children are exposed to quite a bit of negativity whether via television, video games, radio or their peers. To counter the negativity it is essential for parents to discourage negative behaviors such as being demeaning or putting each other down. If you’re together and you hear your child being insulting, immediately address it. Remind your child of the old adage, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. Like many other values, kindness begins at home. If children are to learn to be kind to others it must be reinforced and maintained at home. Otherwise, they will carry negative behaviors outside of the home. 

Explain the importance of an apology

Let’s face it, kids are far from perfect. They will inevitably make mistakes and their will be times when they are unkind. It’s in these moments that it is especially important for parents to explain the significance of an apology. Children must learn to take ownership of their bad choices and understand how it makes the other person feel. Sometimes kindness is about knowing when you’ve made a mistake and swiftly saying you’re sorry. This will not only teach children that being unkind is not the way to go, but it will also teach compassion and responsibility both of which are equally important values.

Teach good manners

Simple words such as “please” and “thank you” can make a huge impact and are crucial when teaching kindness. Taking steps to reinforce the importance of being polite will go a long way. Make it a requirement that your child add “please” at the end of any request. While it may seem like a tacit rule, it still makes a difference. Going hand-in-hand with this rule should be the requirement to say “thank you”. In order for this to be effective parents must also adhere to these rules. Whenever your child gives you something, or does something for you, ensure you say “thank you”, without fail, and your child will act in-kind.  Good manners extend beyond just “please” and “thank you.” Teach your child to greet people properly, be respectful and speak kindly.

Following these few tips can make a world of difference in shaping your child’s behavior. Nurturing kindness not only benefits the child but also those they interact with. When you encourage kindness, children will feel better about themselves and the world they live in.