How to teach your child to be kind.
I would be a very wealthy woman indeed if I had a dollar for every time over the last 20-30 years a parent had asked me how to teach their child to be kind!!
Kindness is a trait that all parents want to see in their children, and for good reason.
Why is being kind a big deal?
Other than it being more enjoyable spending time with your child when he is considerate, empathetic and kind, there are a whole host of reasons why kindness is advantageous to your child’s future life success.
Scientific studies have shown that kindness has physical, social, emotional and mental health benefits. The feel good hormones dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin are released through performing acts of kindness. In the reciprocal nature of kindness, further feel good hormones are released when others are kind in return.
These hormones activate areas of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust. This in turn supports heightened energy levels, a lasting sense of pride, optimism, wellbeing and an enriched sense of belonging. People who are kind experience less depression and stress. Interestingly, and another great reason to promote kindness is that greater concentration and improved school results are linked to kindness.
Kind people have more friends. Research amongst adolescents has shown that being kind increases popularity and connection to others. We all know how important peers and being accepted by others is to teenagers. Starting when children are young, teaching them kindness will help smooth their turbulent teenage years.
Born or bred?
Whether kindness is born or bred has been subject of considerable debate over many years. Research with infants, however,has consistently shown that humans are hard wired with an innate desire to be kind – of varying degrees. A child who has a happy, agreeable disposition may be more inclined towards kindness, but a young child who is less so, still desires to be kind. Unfortunately research also shows that this innate, hard wiring to be kind declines as we age – and this is where the environment comes into play.
How to teach your kids to be kind.
If we as parents and teachers want to develop the innate desire for children to be kind, we need to nurture it. We do that through modelling.
Children do as children see.
Children do as you do.
An apple does not fall far from the tree.
· Treat you children, partner,relatives, neighbours and colleagues with kindness.
· Talk kindly about others.
· Tell your child how good you feel when you are kind to others.
· Teach your child to recognise kindness – point out kind acts of others and how it has made the recipient feel.
· Support your child to do kind things for family members.
· Teach your child how his or her actions affect others.
· Play guessing games regarding feelings.
· Reassess any teasing in your family. For some families teasing is a display of love and care. However while it may be in fun at home, it would not be kind if your child takes this learned behaviour and does it to others outside of the home. This is bullying.
· Lastly and very importantly, NEVERl et your child be unkind or talk disrespectfully to you. While it may seem cute when children are young, it is not so cute when they are teenagers and treating you and others with disrespect and unkindness. Children need to learn this is never ok.