Most parents want to raise young children that are both empathetic and kind. First, it is important to acknowledge that empathy and kindness are not innate qualities. Have you ever heard someone say, ‘She/He isn't very empathetic’ as a way of referring to behaviour beyond one's control? Likewise, ‘He/She has a kind heart’ is a statement misunderstood when we consider that a person was born that way. Just like most positive character traits, empathy and kindness have to be taught.
The following are tried and true best practices to raise kind and empathetic kids.
Unfortunately, when it comes to teaching kindness and empathy to your child, the old ‘do as I say not as I do’ trick doesn't work. The best way to teach kindness is by example. If we want our kids to be kind, we have to work on our own kindness game personally.
Instead of road rage, let them see grace for pushy drivers. Instead of hoarding and greed, let them see sharing and generosity. Instead of selfishness, let them see thoughtfulness. Instead of contempt, let them see honour. How can we model empathy and kindness more in our everyday life?
Furthermore, allow our children to see you being kind to yourself.
Kind acts come from kind thoughts. What we think about is connected to what we see, hear and feel. When children are very young, it is our responsibility to guarding their eyes, ears and heart. As they grow, we need to teach them how to do this themselves.
What children watch, read and listen to will greatly influence the kind of people they grow to be. If kind and empathetic you're going for, then resourcing them with stories that reinforce these values is key. There are many books, TV shows, movies, games, and activities to expose your children to encourage empathy and kindness.
Additionally, be diligent at silencing music or media sources that promote attitudes and actions of an unkind nature.
There are many practical ways families can practice kindness and compassion together. Caring for a pet, participating in events that support charities, sponsoring a child, looking out for elderly neighbours, and supporting your school community are just some of the many ways to get your kindness on.
Although we should champion kindness and compassion everywhere, special emphasis should be placed on showing kindness in the home. Cultivating a kind and empathetic family environment will spill out into the community among children and adults. Remember, families affect communities; communities affect nations.
Coming up with a list of shared family rules and values together is a great way to assist children in being kind practically. It encourages them to think about what is kind, fair and best for each family member when it comes to household responsibilities. This learned perspective will shape the way they approach others outside the home in the real world.
There is nothing like recognition. Praising children for kind behaviour not only lets them know you notice them, but it also enforces the message that kindness is valued and important.
Often, children receive attention when they are disruptive or nasty. Giving more attention to acts of kindness and empathetic words strongly communicates that these qualities warrant recognition and are fit to be celebrated.
Kids that pay it forward instead of back display the greatest measure of kindness. To be kind when one could choose otherwise is worth rewarding. Really! Think about it what is more deserving of a reward than showing kindness in what is, at times, a very unkind world.
Rewards come in all forms, from a small unexpected gift to extra tv time, from extended playtime to staying up 30 mins after bedtime. In choosing a reward, the only necessity is that your child feels they have been rewarded by showing empathy and kindness.