Encouraging Children to be Kind

Children Sharing Pretend Food

Teaching children to be kind to others is part of teaching them about managing emotions and social interactions, and part of teaching them about a bigger sense of empathy. Children choosing to act with kindness towards others leads to fewer conflicts and better relationships.

I posted these ideas on a D.C. Urban Moms forum post the other day when someone asked for ways to teach children about kindness. I thought I’d share them here too as well. Here are a few ideas:

  • Read and discuss children’s books about empathy such as Stand in My Shoes by Sornsen or How Full is Your Bucket for Kids by Rath.
  • Read and discuss children’s books on friendship such as How to Be a Friend by Brown or Making Friends is an Art by Cook.
  • Model kindness yourself OFTEN.
  • Highlight when they are kind on their own by giving descriptive praise such as, “I saw you share that toy, that was very kind.” or, “that was so nice of you to wait for your friend.”
  • Give children lots of opportunities to connect with and be helpful to other people. Maybe participate in fundraising or volunteer efforts together. Be sure when you donate things that they also make some contribution to the donation pile and talk about who will use these things. Find ways to volunteer together as they are old enough (there is a list of volunteer places with kids on the http://www.our-kids.com resource list). Volunteer to help elderly neighbors by picking up a few extra groceries for them once a week with a child-delivery system. In the winter, shovel a neighbor’s walk before your own and be sure to have your child participate. Talk with your child about how this is helpful.
  • Teach children to look for small ways to be helpful to others. This might be holding doors, offering to carry things or picking things up. Little things add up to a sense of others.
  • When there are disagreements that your child is involved in or witnesses, occasionally try to go back and review for better outcomes and to see it from the other person’s view.
  • When you are reading any children’s story book, and there is a social conflict, stop and talk about the various viewpoints of each character and how people can feel differently about the same things. Discuss ways the characters could solve problems that would be kind or fair for all involved.
  • In my own family, we talk often about not creating work for other people. Meaning we clean up our table as best we can in restaurants and we put things back on the shelf where they belong if we’re not buying them at the grocery store.
  • Pet care is a nice way to introduce caring about others and being responsible to others. It’s good to discuss being gentle and loving.
  • Teach children about genuine compliments and how good it feels to get and give.

Author: Dr. Rene Hackney

With a MA in school psychology and a PhD in developmental psychology, I founded and work as a parent educator at Parenting Playgroups. Somewhere in there I trained in the Developmental Clinic at Children's NMC and in the public schools. I have two beautiful, funny children who make me practice what I preach most everyday.

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