It is said that no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. On 13th November each year, the world pays special attention to kindness — it is, after all, what the world truly needs. Considering that our children are tomorrow’s future, we must teach them how to be kind. However, it takes a lot of effort to be kind, and teaching your child how to be kind can be challenging. By focusing on the good we can do for one another, we can enjoy our days so much more — this is something that children need to know and understand.
Being kind might require you to walk the extra mile, but it is always worth it, as it brings you a great sense of joy and contentment! Wondering how to teach your child to be kind? Let’s get started:
The Science Of Teaching Kindness
Did you know that, just like every other thing that can be “taught” to kids, kindness can be taught as well? Imitation of actions and behaviors is the most dominant way in which a child learns. This means that as a caretaker, we must lead by example and imbibe kindness in our forms, so our children follow suit (1).
The human brain is wired for imitation, thanks to mirror neurons. These mirror neurons are particularly active in the early stages of life, through infancy and childhood. During this time, your child will first observe their surroundings, after which their brains will respond in a way that encourages them to perform the same (or similar) actions themselves. New neural pathways will soon be formed, and these pathways will create the foundation for specific behaviors that will become a part of their personality for the rest of their lives! (2).
Another interesting fact worth noting is that the human brain can change and adapt, called neuroplasticity (3). So, your child can learn to be kind through observance and make it a part of their life with repetition. Since children have brains that are particularly wired to change and adapt, now is the best time to teach them to be kinder and compassionate.
Seven Ways To Teach Your Child To Be Kind
The best thing about being kind is that it makes you feel so good about yourself! Here’s what you can do to teach your child to be kind and compassionate:
1. First, Be Kind To Yourself
Before you get started on how you or your child can be kind to others, it is essential to emphasize being kind to yourself. Often, we tend to belittle or blame ourselves when things go wrong. By practicing kindness to yourself, you will enjoy a sense of confidence, affection, and acceptance, all of which will pose as a strong foundation for your growth. It also sets the tone for how you will be kind to others.
2. Encourage Random Acts Of Kindness
Random acts of kindness essentially mean that you do little things, randomly, to make someone’s day a little better! Give your child examples of a few random acts of kindness, such as helping an older adult cross the street, holding the door open for someone at work, or writing thank-you notes to someone. Encourage your child to do something similar in school. They could leave a “thank you” message for their teacher, help a friend struggling with studies, or feed the birds every morning.
3. Be Open About Kind Thoughts
Practice speaking out your kind thoughts. We are often vocal about the bad that people do, but how often do we share kind thoughts out loud? For example, when you talk about your friends to your child, say “may they be happy”, or “I am so glad they are healthy”. Encourage your child to have kind thoughts towards their friends and family too.
4. Stories Of Kindness
Stories are a powerful way to influence and make an impact on children. There are several stories out there that can change lives! Buy books that revolve around the theme of kindness, or tell them stories of the same. The best part is that almost all of us have encountered acts of kindness that made a huge difference — share one such story with your child.
5. Turn That Frown Upside Down
An interesting study was conducted in Sweden — it was concluded that if you look at a person who is smiling at you, your muscles would most likely involuntarily twitch into a smile in response. How great is that? Smile often, and your child will learn to do the same, thereby passing the smile to everybody!
6. Volunteering Activities
Encourage your child to volunteer in various activities that promote kindness. They could join a beach cleaning activity, visit a nursing home, spend time with less-privileged children, or donate some of their allowance for a good cause.
7. Importance Of Empathy
It’s one thing to help someone when asked for, but it takes empathy and compassion for a person to understand another’s pain without even being asked. Teaching this is definitely not easy as even most adults fail to develop empathy. Nonetheless, if you want to see your child grow up to be an outstanding person with goodness, teaching them to be observant and considerate will go a long way in helping them understand the pain of others.
In a world where people won’t even think twice before stepping on others for their own benefits, kindness goes a long way as a saving grace. Only through kindness and empathy can society hope to march forward to a more equal and fair world where the sufferings and pains are quickly responded to. Although we all observe a day in the year as World Kindness Day, this trait has to be a part of our daily life. Let your child know that kindness is a win-win: in being kind to others, they will be kind to themselves too. We come across so much negativity in our day-to-day life that kindness is the need of the hour. What are your thoughts on this? Share them with us in the comments below!
- The mirror-neuron system
- LEARNING FROM OTHERS: CHILDREN’S CONSTRUCTION OF CONCEPTS