Attention to kindness and thoughtful behavior is essential to raising a child with strong moral character. While parents rightfully focus on academic achievement, physical fitness, and an interest in arts, music, and language learning, kindness is often overlooked, but should be practiced consistently by kids and their parents in order for children to truly learn what it means to be kind.
Remember to model kindness. Make sure to demonstrate kind and generous behavior to your kids, so that they can see you being kind, and understand the reasons for your behavior. When you make a meal for a neighbor with a newborn or a health crisis, tell them what you’re doing, and even invite them to make the meal with you. If you volunteer, think of ways to involve them in your volunteer efforts. Even something as simple as holding the door for an elderly person as you enter a store will show your child that you value thoughtful behavior.
Recognize your child’s kind behavior. When your child helps you fold the laundry, shares a toy with a sibling or a friend from daycare, or makes a homemade card for a family member on a special occasion, remember to take a moment to let your child know that you see his behavior and that you appreciate his thoughtfulness.Keep manners in mind. Good manners are not simply superficial niceties. Saying “please” and “thank you”, or remembering to look someone in the eye when you greet them or answer their questions is a great way for kids to learn simple ways of respecting others. They can build on these skills as they grow older.
Remember the golden rule. While it may be tempting to become visibly angry with your young child when she acts out, remember that she is just a small child with big feelings that she doesn’t know how to express. It’s your job to intercept her feelings calmly and respectfully, while guiding her behavior so that it is not harmful. Treating her with respect will set a good example.
Take note of unkind behavior. When another child calls a friend a not-so-nice name, or if you overhear adults speaking in a disrespectful manner, you can feel free to express to your child that you think this behavior is unkind. Making these simple observations will be a great lesson to your little one as she begins to distinguish kind behavior from harmful behavior.
Have you made an effort to instill kind, generous, and respectful behavior in your young child? Tell us how you’ve communicated about kindness with your children in the comments section.