3 tips for raising kind kids

It may not surprise you to know that, if we want our children to be kind, moral and caring people, we need to raise them that way.

According to the team at Harvard University’s Making Caring Common Project ¹, there are three key ways to encourage your child to show kindness and care.

1. Make caring for others a priority

According to studies done by the Making Caring Common team, parents often place more priority on their children’s happiness and achievements than their kids’ concern for others.

While it is wonderful to have happy children, it’s also important to teach them that the happiness of others is just as important as their own.

As parents, we have an important role to play here.

When your children learn that caring for others is a top priority in your family, they are more likely to demonstrate those values inside and outside your home.

Ideas

  • Instead of saying to your child: “The most important thing is that you’re happy,” say “The most important thing is that you’re kind.”

  • Model caring behaviour when you interact with other adults in your children’s lives (this is especially important in families where children spend time in more than one parental household)

  • Ensure that your children always address others respectfully, even when they’re tired, distracted, or angry.

  • At parent teacher meetings, ask specific questions about your children’s citizenship and whether they are good community members. Academic results are important, but so is the way in which your kids interact with their peers and teachers

2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.

Learning how to express gratitude is as important for children as it is for adults because studies have shown that people who are in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving.

In other words, grateful kids are more likely to be happy and healthy kids.

Learning gratitude is like learning a sport or a musical instrument. It requires regular practice.  

Ideas

  • Have high expectations for your children and try not to reward them for every act of helpfulness, such as clearing the dinner table. Having responsibilities and helping at home should be a normal part of your children’s lives and rewards are best given for uncommon acts of kindness.

  • Talk to your children about caring and uncaring acts they see on television can be a helpful way to teach the concept of kindness. The same goes for acts of justice and injustice they might witness at school or hear about in the news.

  • Many children respond very well to having daily gratitude rituals. This might be something as a nightly dinnertime conversation about their things that each family member has been grateful for during the day, or a special book or journal in which they can record their daily thoughts

3. Expand your child’s circle of care

Almost all children care about a relatively small circle of people.

It’s fairly typical to care about family members and friends, but how can you encourage your child to care about someone who is outside that circle, such as the new kids at school, the neighbour who does not speak their language, or people they know that do not necessarily hold positions of authority, such as a cleaner at their school?

One way to help your children to broaden their circle of care is to use the idea of ‘zooming’.

They can ‘zoom in’ to listen and pay close attention to their immediate circle of family and friends, but they can also ‘zoom out’ to take in the big picture of others in their world.

When your children learn to consider the perspective of others, including those who are vulnerable, they develop the empathy that they need to be kind and caring people.

The process of ‘zooming out’ can be a useful one when you are trying to teach your children about the consequences of their behaviour and decisions.

For example, before your children quit a sports team, band, or friendship, you can ask them to consider their obligations to the group or the friend.

By encouraging them to think of the ripple effect that their actions can have on others,  you are helping your child to develop the self-awareness and emotional maturity they need to be a positive member of their community.

Ideas

  • Make sure your children are friendly and grateful to all the people in their daily lives, such as a bus driver or shop assistant.

  • Encourage children to care for those who are vulnerable. Give children some simple ideas for stepping into the “caring and courage zone,” like comforting a classmate who is being teased.

  • Use a newspaper or TV story to encourage your child to think about hardships faced by children in another country

¹ Making Caring Common Project – Harvard University

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