Children being kind to each other. Brothers and sisters helping one another. A child comforting another child when he’s hurt. All are wonderful sights. But how does a child become kind and compassionate?
By being taught and witnessing it in the lives of the people he loves. When a child is treated kindly, he learns to respond the same way. The same goes for compassion. Here are a few ideas of how you can teach kindness to your kids.
1. When you hear a child crying in the store, don’t get annoyed. Tell your child, “It sounds like someone feels sad.” This acknowledges the noise, yet links it to an emotion. It makes you and your child feel bad for the sad child instead of yourself.
2. Take your children with you when you visit someone in the hospital. Let them hear the things you say to the patient and see how you gently touch them. Include them in the conversation.
3. When you see a homeless person, stop and give them something. We sometimes make a stop at the dollar store and pick up a few items of food, chapstick, bottled water, combs, etc. and go back to give it to the person. Talking to someone who’s different takes away some of the mystery and fear of them. When children see and hear a homeless person’s surprised and grateful response it impacts them deeply. The needy person’s smile will remain in your child’s mind long after the actual encounter.
4. Before your child has a friend over, remind her to play things the friend would like to play, to let the friend go first, and to treat the friend as the special guest he or she is.
5. Allow a child to help any way he can. This includes providing comfort to others of any age. Compliment their kindness.
Children can be taught kindness just as we teach them anything else in life. As always, the best teacher is your example, so be consistently kind to others and to your child. Speak gently and be kind through your actions and attitude.
What things have you done to teach kindness to your kids? In what ways have you seen your child being kind or compassionate?