We encourage kindness in our children, above all else. In our home, we value and teach kindness above intelligence, talent, and responsibility.
As parents, we are raising children whose character is built on thoughtful kindness. And it’s working: In a day of endless stories of bullying, we are raising children who stand up for the bullied by stepping in. In a day of debates over whether children should be allowed in restaurants, we are raising children whose considerate behavior draws strangers to our table to comment on what a pleasure it was to have us as table-mates.
In a house of three kids under 10 years old, we are working every day to raise siblings who know how to fight fair, know how to love and be loved, and who will be friends as adults. It starts at home, and we work at it every day.
Our approach isn’t foolproof. My 7-year-old is far more empathetic than his older brother. It’s like empathy is his superpower. He can read emotions near flawlessly when he slows down enough to pay attention. The key is getting him to slow down enough.
Trust me, teaching kids to be kind and thoughtful is a challenge. But you can do it.
Why Is Kindness Important?
Kindness is the pathway to empathy. In short, empathy is the ability to intellectually identify with or vicariously experience the emotions and thoughts of others. It can be a powerful skill and a lifelong tool for healthy relationships or simple daily interactions.
We tell the kids, “You never know what that little bit of kindness will mean to someone’s day.”
Empathy helps you understand your loved ones and pick your battles, which is particularly good in managing stress as well. But it can be a complex character trait to understand as a kid, so we focus on kindness.
Kids can understand kindness. They know it when they see it and feel it. The trick is teaching them to demonstrate it.
How Can You Raise Children To Be Kind?
Modeling kindness at home and in public is the most powerful method available to you to instill the value in your children. But how about something more tangible?
We teach our kids to ask questions of themselves about those around them. In doing so, we teach them how to pause before reacting and to see through the eyes of fellow humans.
Teach Your Children To Ask These Questions:
ASK THEMSELVES (of others):
- How would that would make him feel?
- How would that make me feel?
- Look at her face: What do I think she’s thinking right now?
- Is she maybe feeling lonely or left out?
- What else might he be upset about?
WHEN FIGHTING, ASK:
- Is it necessary to fight about this?
- Is it worth being right or even just winning?
- Did I [do something that hurt their feelings] just to be cool?
- Are you okay?
- Is there anything I can do to help?
- Is there anything you need?
- Want to play?
The Fantastic Results:
An unexpected result of teaching your children to ask these questions? They learn to recognize the true source of their own feelings. When they fly into a fury over something minor for no apparent reason, they learn to stop long enough to ask what they are really upset about. They may not realize it quickly enough to head off the tantrum themselves, but they are far more likely to thoughtfully apologize for their misdirected anger later.
Does that sound like too much to hope for? It’s not. You’ll be floored the first time your little stinker comes back to you after a meltdown and says, “I’m sorry I yelled before. I wasn’t really mad about that. I just had a really bad day at school.”
Teach your children thoughtful kindness and you will equip them for a life full of love, confidence, friendship, and compassion.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
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