It’s important to teach your children to be kind as it will shape their character.
By teaching your child to be kind to others, you’re actively raising a well-rounded, compassionate and empathetic individual. While kindness is a simple concept, it requires a lot of practice and repetition to develop.
It’s common for children to fail to see the bigger picture, especially when kids are growing up in an era of increased social pressure and judgement. The rise of social media apps and platforms makes it easier to pass judgements and criticism onto others, making it crucial that younger generations are taught to treat others with kindness.
Why teaching children kindness is so important.
Children often live in the present without thinking too much about the future, so it can be hard for them to understand the long-term effects of being unkind to another person. However, all kids have the natural gift of empathy, which you can use to their advantage when it’s time to teach your children to be kind.
It’s important to teach children kindness, because it is a vital part of social and emotional development that can lead to healthy relationships. Children who are kind are more likely to have positive social interactions, strong friendships, and strengthen their empathy and compassion.
Research has also shown that kindness can have a ripple effect. If a child is kind to another, this can inspire them to do the same, creating a domino effect. Kindness has also been reported to elicit a mood-boosting, biochemical ‘helpers high’ that can reduce anxiety and release endorphins.
Unfortunately, teaching children kindness isn’t always straightforward. That’s why we’ve gathered some helpful strategies that parents and foster carers can use to encourage kindness in their kids.
Lead by example.
Children learn by observing the behaviour of those around them, especially their parents and carers. By modelling kindness yourself, you can actively teach your children to be kind. You might notice your child is more inclined to hold the door open for a stranger if they observe you doing the same. Therefore, when teaching children kindness, it’s important to treat everyone around you with respect and empathy.
This is because children modelling their behaviour on their parent or carer can also lead to negative habits. It’s important to remember that your child will learn most from the behaviour you set, so make sure you are putting positive behaviours above all else.
Reinforce their kind behaviour.
If you notice your child exhibiting kind behaviour, it’s important to reward it. By doing this, you are actively encouraging your child to continue to display this, as they’ll learn to associate kind acts with positive outcomes.
While the aim is to strengthen kind behaviour, praise should be aimed at rewarding your child’s character, rather than just their actions. Rather than solely celebrating the act – ‘What a kind thing to do’ – try focusing your praise on them as people – ‘What a kind person you are’.
It’s also important to try and avoid external rewards – such as treats, TV-time and toys – when rewarding kind behaviour. This is because it could send your child the wrong message, teaching them that kindness is worth performing only if there is a prize involved.
Wonder about others’ feelings.
Some children can have a harder time reading non-verbal social cues, such as displays of emotion, which makes it harder for them to relate to other people’s experiences.
By actively encouraging your child to observe and identify other people’s expressions, you can encourage them to consider how other people feel and think.
When in public spaces – such as a supermarket or park – encourage your child to wonder about the emotions of people around you. Ask them questions like:
- What do you think they are feeling right now?
- Where do you think they have been today?
- Are they having a good day or a bad day?
These questions will get your child used to identifying non-verbal emotional cues, inviting them to be more aware of the experiences of other people.
Practice gratitude with your child.
Encouraging children to focus on the positive things in their lives and express gratitude for them is a fantastic way to establish kind behaviours. This is because it can encourage them to develop a positive outlook on life, and foster empathy and kindness towards others.
You can do this by encouraging them to say please and thank you, or setting aside certain times a day to express gratitude. For example, at bedtime, you can incorporate talking about your favourite parts of the day with each other. Or, you could place gratitude and kindness quotes for kids in their lunch box.
Teach them to be selfless.
In addition to practising gratitude with your child, you can also encourage them to participate in selfless activities. This includes volunteering or other types of community action, such as fundraising for charity and donating to shelters.
Involving your children in acts of kindness has plenty of benefits, such as enhancing their world perspective, improving their self-confidence, and teaching them about giving back to their community. It is also a great way to strengthen your own relationship with your child.
You can find more family-friendly ideas for giving back to your community here.
Guide them in regulating emotions.
No matter the age, it can be hard to show kindness when strong or destructive emotions overcome us. Children might experience displaced aggression, which is when their negative emotions are so strong that they relieve their stress by attacking others.
Displaced aggression is common in children who have experienced trauma in their past, such as foster children, who often struggle with regulating their emotions.
Feelings of anger, hurt or embarrassment are typically stronger than happiness, restricting our ability to show kindness or compassion to others. Noticing these emotions when they occur is crucial, as you can teach your child to regulate and deal with them in a healthy way that doesn’t cause harm to others.
Utilise your child’s imagination.
A child’s imagination is one of the greatest things on earth, and parents or foster carers could use this to their advantage to teach them kindness. For example, you could use your child’s imagination to encourage them to think about how certain behaviours would feel. This can teach them to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and gain new perspectives.
A great way to do this can be through reading a book together or coming up with stories. Not only can this help you connect with your child more, but it also allows them to use their imagination to explore new worlds and connect with the characters. As a result, your child can learn to become more empathetic, which can encourage them to be kinder and more compassionate.
Kindness is the most important lesson a child can learn.
If you teach your children to be kind it will not only benefit them, but also have a positive impact on society. Kindness creates communities, fosters a culture of empathy and compassion, and makes the world a better place.
If you think you could have a positive impact on the life of a vulnerable young person, contact us to learn more about fostering.