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Top 10 Ways To Encourage Kindness In Children

Posted on February 6, 2018

Kindness is a basic value parents attempt to instill in their children.  This isn’t as easy as it may seem at times, and we find ourselves surprised when our child doesn’t act in considerate, friendly, or generous ways when we may expect them to.  You might witness your child refusing to share their toys, hear them call their siblings names, or even receive a phone call from their school informing you that they’ve bullied a classmate.  This, of course, is natural and as children are growing and navigating new life experiences they’re bound to make decisions that may not be very kind to others.    Here is a list of ways we’ve found can help to encourage kindness in children and in turn avoid or reduce those situations.

  1. Be sure they know it when they experience it.

    It may be difficult for younger children to understand when they are witnessing or experiencing a kind act. Point out to them when you see them experiencing kindness from another or when they are being kind toward others. Say things like “that was kind of you to share your things” or “wasn’t that kind of your sister to help you with that”? Learning what IS kind will help them to understand what is not.

  2. Help them be givers of kindness.

    According to an article by Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph.D. on Psychologytoday.com, we don’t make children happy by simply enabling them to be receivers of kindness. We increase their feelings of happiness and well-being, reduce bullying, and improve their friendships by teaching them to be givers of kindness.  Encourage your child to think about the kind things they do and to be aware of the feeling of gratitude they receive by doing those things.

  3. Practice what you preach.

    Children learn ethical values by observing adults they respect.  By displaying honesty, fairness, and caring ourselves we become positive role models for them to observe and learn from.

  4. Teach manners.

    Manners may seem like a simple thing to teach.  Please, thank you, excuse me and other terms we are all familiar with being polite things to say.  The hard part is knowing at what age we should expect our children to understand and practice different ways of being polite.  Erin Dower has an excellent article titled How rude! an age-by-age guide to teaching kids manners on familyeducation.com which helps parents understand what we should teach and expect from our children at different age levels.

  5. Teach empathy.

    The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  The concept of empathy may seem simple in its definition, but according to Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., it’s a much more complicated issue than we may think.  Read her article Teaching empathy: Evidence-based tips for fostering empathy in children to get a much more in depth understanding as well as practicable tips to teach your child empathy.

  6. Teach tolerance.

    Tolerance is a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one’s own. It is important for kids to form opinions as they mature and learn, but having the ability to agree to disagree is imparative.  Those opinions our children develop must also be built upon the belief that every human has the same intrinsic value no matter their race, religion, gender, or background.

    Acording to kidshealth.org we must teach tolerance by setting a good example, but there are some other things we can do to help as well.  Click here to read a great artlicle on teaching kids tolerance.

  7. Help expand your child’s circle of concern.

    According to Amy Joyce, writer and editor on parenting at The Washington Post, almost all children care about their small circle of family and friends.  Our challenge is to get them to care about those outside that small circle.  Click here to read her article on raising kind children which gives some great actionable ideas on how to do this.

  8. Read books that tell stories about kindness.

    Stories play an important role in a child’s development and education. Kids who hear stories of great acts of kindness just may want to emulate that kindness! Randomactsofkindness.org has put together a wonderful list of books for kids K-12 that make kids kinder.  Click here to see that list.  We also highly recommend you browse around their site and learn what this great organization is all about.  We think they’re pretty cool.

  9. Search for ongoing opportunities to be kind together.

    Find ways to do kind things together with your child.  There are countless non-profit or charitable organizations that make it easy to volunteer time and do kind things as a family.

  10. Teach your child how to deal with negative feelings.

    It’s obvious children often act instinctively on emotion and it isn’t hard to see all previous efforts to instill kindness go out the window when a child blindly acts on a negative emotion.  Lisa Firestone Ph.D., has a very infomative and useful article, Tips for Helping Kids Handle Their Emotions, on psychologytoday.com.

This list is clearly not an all inclusive resource for ways to encourage kindness in children.  It is a pretty good start though. We’d love to hear your thoughts on our list.  And if you have any other ways  to help teach kids kindness we’d love to hear them and possibly add them to future #BeKind..BeConfident..BeYou blog posts! If you have any please comment below.

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