Kindness Matters - Teach your kids to be Kind!
Children are naturally empathetic, but do need to learn how to treat other people in a kind way and how they can help other people in so many ways. One of the few positives to come out of the global pandemic was the increase in community spirit and the many wonderful acts of kindness done by young children and teenagers around the world– long may it continue!
Kindness means different things to different people, but a particularly lovely description is that kindness is "seeing with your heart,"said by Angela Santomero, in her book Radical Kindness: the life changing power of giving and receiving’ .
One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is to teach them kindness, from the earliest age and what better way to do this than by leading by example? You don’t have to say anything, but if they are out and about with you and can see you being kind to those around you, it will be very contagious and will rub off on them!
Children do not see the bigger pictureAlthough we love them very much, we know that our children are usually only focused on themselves and their world. They do not understand the concept of the adage ‘put yourself in that person’s shoes’ so that they can think about how another person is feeling. It needs gentle discussion on many occasions to try and adapt the way they think so that they can understand why one of their peers is acting in a certain way or why the elderly lady is begging outside the supermarket.
Help your children understand what being kind meansFrom an early age, children can feel what other people feel and sense emotions and are amazingly quick to respond. They do not however, know why they are feeling compassionate towards someone else and need to understand why they feel as they do. For example, if their brother or sister hurts themselves by falling in the playground, they may well feel really sad and will need to learn that they feel this way because they care about their sibling.
By the time your child is 4-5 years old, discussions about kindness will help your child to understand its meaning and to develop their skills for showing kindness to others. The most successful way you can teach your child is by encouraging them to imagine how the other person is feeling in that situation. Children have really vivid imagination and will soon be able to make their own judgments and have their own opinions about many different scenarios.
Teach them to try and only say kind words and be positiveThis can certainly be a challenge, but if they try and say only positive things to their friends they are more likely to only receive positive comments back. Of course if they make negative comments things quickly spiral downhill. It is a hard lesson to learn, but children need to know when it is best not to admit they don’t like something when asked!
Encourage your children to smile at everyone!Smiles are free and are unlimited and your children will love the response they get by saying ‘hello’ with a big smile to everyone they meet all day through. It is important that they know how much their smile has meant to a lonely elderly person they have met in the street.
Good manners go a long wayEveryone likes to be thanked and appreciated and saying thank you to shop assistants and waiters can really make a difference to their day. Saying a cheerful ‘hello’ with a smile to neighbours with a compliment about their garden or clean car will really make them smile too. If you treat everyone you meet warmly and positively, your children will soon follow your lead.
Always treat your children with kindness and respectThis can be a tall order when you are feeling tired or stressed, but the difference this will make to your children is amazing. If you speak to your children with kindness, they are less likely to treat their peers badly - which will help them to widen their friendship group.
Importantly, treating your child with love and kindness will help them to feel good about themselves and give their self-esteem a real boost.
Teaching your child to be kind is one of life’s biggest lessons and it cannot be done quickly. Make sure that you talk with your children in a way that they will find easy to understand when you are discussing kindness - or lack of kindness. Read story books together that demonstrate other people’s kindness or negative reactions and discuss these with your child. Most important of all, lead by example and you will soon see your child being kind and compassionate when you least expect it and you will be able to relish a ‘proud mummy/ daddy moment….