Kids do their best. When they’re in the toddler and preschooler stages, kids are learning an enormous amount about the world, and it’s all they can do to finish their dinner, sit still long enough to use the potty, and hold your hand when crossing the street. Adding kindness and generosity to their list of to-dos may seem like a tall older, but just a bit of teaching at home can really build a thoughtful and respectful character.
Use polite language. When you want your child to pick up his toys, think about the words you use. Do they include “please” and “thank you”? We’re willing to bet that as you rush around the house doing pre-bedtime clean-up, these niceties are lost in the shuffle. Remember to use polite words when speaking to your child, and she’ll mimic your respectful language.
Model respect. You can show respect to your child in small ways. Being consistent with your rules, giving them ample time to complete tasks, and rewarding positive behavior are all ways of showing your respect. Modeling kindness and respect when you interact with your partner will also demonstrate the kind of behavior you want to see from your child.
Empathy must be nurtured. You may notice, around the ages of 2 or 3, that your child will develop something akin to empathy. When you stub your toe, you may get a hug. When a Disney character is sad, your child may well up. Seize that empathy and nurture it. Be careful to verbalize your feelings of frustration, sadness, and joy, and point out those feelings in others. Encourage your child to respond to other peoples’ feelings appropriately, by, for example, offering a tissue when a sibling is in tears.
Read about kindness in a book. Children’s books are notoriously great at teaching children lessons, whether the subject matter is the alphabet, shapes and colors, or respectful behavior. Ask your childcare provider which books are their favorites when they are talking about politeness and respect with kids. Do Unto Otters, The Way I Act, and A Chair for my Mother are a few books which do an excellent job of teaching kids about respect.
Take action with your child. Did the family down the street have a new baby? Make a dinner for them with your child and take it to their house. If your child has recently had a birthday, help her to write out thank-you notes to the people who gave her gifts. Look for local opportunities to volunteer with your kids.
How are you teaching your kids about kindness, respect, and generosity? Let us know in the comments section.