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Kids and Kindness

Teaching Kids Kindness
When I was doing some research for my blog on schadenfreude I was quite surprised to find out that even very young children can derive some satisfaction from the misfortunes of others. This doesn’t mean that they are unable to be compassionate, but this compassion is largely tempered by their level of development. So, a lack of impulse control could cause a gentle stroking of the cat to segue into an unkind (and potentially scratch inducing) tail pull; and the conviction that they are the centre of their little universes makes the idea of sharing very difficult.
Given this, is it possible to teach kindness to young children? I believe it is. If you have a preschooler who is more inclined to hit his playmate over the head than share his toys with him here are some ideas for introducing them to the concept of altruism.
Model Kindness.
We all know that kids learn by imitation. Just try sticking out your tongue at a baby and see how quickly they copy you. This ability in very young infants to mimic your actions is a precursor of empathy which has usually developed around two years of age. By this age they are able to recognize emotions in others which they are not necessarily experiencing themselves and will often try to comfort someone in distress.

Infant sticking out tongue by Carlos Martinez

Photo by Carlos Martinez

Children between one and three years learn both by watching and by doing so if you want your child to grow up kind you need to show kindness yourself. Every time you take cookies to your next-door neighbour, help someone carry their groceries, hold the door open, walk more slowly to allow them to keep up with you, even pet an animal, you are showing your child how to be kind.
Speak Kindly
Moderate your voice, speak gently, use please and thankyou, not just when speaking to other adults but when you speak to your child. Greet people you meet when out walking or shopping with your child and don’t be afraid to compliment, sincerely, the colour of a stranger’s outfit or their hairstyle.
On the other hand, do not tolerate name-calling and be careful not to trash talk yourself. Remember that when you speak negatively of your relatives or colleagues your child hears you and presumes that its alright for them to talk that way.
Encourage Kindness
Young children have not yet reached the stage when chores are to be avoided at all costs. While helping around the house is still considered fun, encourage them to help.
Sure, you can do it all much faster and more efficiently yourself, but a bit (or a lot) of patience now can instill in your child an appreciation for what others do to keep life running smoothly and an inclination to help them to do so.


Photo by Laterjay

Label Kindness
Recognize what kindness is – compassion, feeling for others and reaching out to comfort or assist. Then label these feelings and actions when you and your child come across them in your community, ‘wasn’t it kind of that man to help the lady in the wheelchair onto the sidewalk?’, and especially when your child exhibits them. A simple ‘that was very kind of you’, or, ‘you made your friend feel much better when you gave her a hug’, helps to confirm the act and hopefully encourage the start of a life time habit of kindness.



July 27, 2018 Posted by | Children | | 2 Comments