With technological advances today, kids these days are more likely to be continuously exposed to social media where mean comments, judgments, and criticism can be easily made and spread. The value of kindness and empathy seems to be fading away. More often than you wish, you will find your child imitating these behaviors they learned from the social networks, without fully understanding what these comments meant most of the time.
Today’s fast-paced and competitive environment brought about more parents emphasizing on academic grades and status. This concern has placed much pressure on the child, not just physically but mentally as well.
Being surrounded by fierce competition, it is equally (or perhaps even more) critical that parents emphasize building strong values in your child’s upbringing.
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But how much do you know about kindness? What is kindness?
The word “Kindness” can be said to have multiple definitions including compassion, empathy, justice, etc. One common factor we can all agree on is that it involves some form of underlying concern for others that is not out of self-interest.
It has been said that kids are naturally hardwired to want to help and have empathy for others. Thus, as parents and teachers, we can make use of these instincts to cultivate kindness in their daily lives.
Now let us dive into the discussion on how to develop the value of kindness among our children.
Be The Model You Want Your Child To Follow.
Children are quick to pick up things such as the way of speech and behavior by following others. At young ages, children love to imitate what you say, what you do, your body language, gestures, etc. Hence, to raise thoughtful kids, it is important to demonstrate kind behavior yourself and be the model for them to copy.
These can include subtle actions from putting your phone down to say thank you, to more tangible actions such as bringing a sick family member some home-cooked food, donating money to charities, or spending time at aged homes to accompany the elderly.
I would highly recommend bringing your children to spend some time interacting with the kids in the orphanages. This helps them learn the value of empathy and understand that they are in a better position than many other kids and should not take for granted what they currently have.
Encourage Kind Words, Smiles, and Positive Actions.
Help your kids develop their persona and encourage them to always say magic words such as “Thank You”, “Sorry”, “Please”, and “You’re Welcome” whenever there are opportunities to do so.
This could be thanking the cashier checking out your groceries, or a waiter at an eatery, or even your neighbor for a simple kind act. Building this long-term habit is always easier when it grows on you at a young age.
You can also educate your kids that negative words or speech will end up hurting one another’s feelings. A simple way to convey this message is to help your child understand and differentiate the tonality and words when he speaks. It will be more difficult for younger children to remember, but a quick friendly reminder will do the trick.
Help Your Child Understand What Kindness Means.
According to psychiatrist Kelly Harding, M.D., author of “The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness”, she mentioned that our mirror neuron system is where we are all hardwired to empathize. You have probably witnessed some of these incidents with your child.
For example, when their friend falls or gets injured, your child is likely to feel some sort of conflict between crying with their friend or trying to help them up. In this instance, they are intuitively feeling bad for their friend who has gotten hurt, and this is their form of empathy and compassion at that age.
As they grow older, they will become more aware of their values better and with your help, they will get better at acting on that understanding.
It is never too early to start teaching your kids life values, and the best age to start teaching them kindness is between the ages of 3 to 4. A classmate’s parent shared with me that her style of teaching kindness is by teaching them the concept of “treating others like how you would like to be treated yourself”. Well, no harm trying I’d say.
Volunteer and Give Back to the Community.
My fondest childhood memories were spending the weekends with my parents at food donation drives to help with the packing and distribution of food packs. Not only did we bond closer together, I learned to appreciate the comfortable living environment I had at home. You can also start teaching your kids the value of kindness through volunteering campaigns to cultivate their habits.
“Being kind to others feels good. It helps take our attention off of our troubles, and also creates a feeling of interconnectedness.” -Kaia Roman
If your child learns better through hands-on activities, helping in the community or the school holiday camp programs make a good platform for them to learn and grow.
It is advantageous to encourage charitable behavior in your children by tapping into their passions. For example, if they love arts and crafting, they could participate in small bazaars or fairs where a portion of the proceeds you receive through selling handmade handicrafts are donated to charities. Furthermore, volunteering as a family helps to bring you closer together and understand each other’s passions better.
Teach Your Child to be Aware of Their Actions
Teaching your child to put himself in the shoes of the third party is a very important lesson. For example, when your child has labeled another class/playmate negatively, let them know immediately that it is not right, and if the roles were reversed, he/she would not like it too. This way, it makes it easier for them to grasp the concept of empathy and be more morally aware.
You can also point out the positive effects of kindness when it is done or received. Ask your child for her feelings after doing or receiving an act of kindness. This will allow her to ponder upon the meaning of feeling gratitude. As they start recognizing both sides of the coin, it will be easier to maintain this behavior.
Teaching your kids kindness can be as easy as ABC when done correctly. Do not feel stressed out when your kids do not show kindness overnight. Instead, build this precious sense of gratitude and kindness in stages like Lego bricks.
Our daily lives exist with tons of opportunities to nurture our kids into kind, caring, and compassionate adults. Kindness and gratitude will bring about a higher level of emotional intelligence Remember that the key factor is for them to grow up to be kind with empathy in their thoughts for others, thus try not to pressurize your kids, introduce fun activities to allow them to explore and develop these feelings and thoughts.
How do you help your child develop and explore their understanding of kindness? Leave your comments below!