As parents and teachers, we all know that teaching kindness to kids is one of our most important jobs. For you, as parents, you want to teach kindness to your own children, but you also influence the learning of the children of family and friends, as well as your children’s friends and classmates. For teachers, teaching kindness in our classroom and our overall educational environment is crucial.
The task is not easy, because, let’s face it, we all know young children are egocentric. It takes a great deal of effort to teach them to recognize others needs and even more to help them care for others. It is somethings that as parents and teachers we must work to teach and model every day with the children in our orbit setting the stage for a bright and noble future filled with kindness.
Why We Need to Teach Kindness
“Look at her ugly shirt!”
“Isn’t he fat?”
“No one wants to be friends with you!”
Rude and inappropriate comments are common, among children and adults, and we all know if we are the object – they hurt! And, of course, this makes it more important than ever to teach children to be kind. In many cases, we may even learn something ourselves!
Hardwired for Kindness?
Young children (and some adults), tend to focus on the moment and don’t understand the long-term effects of unkind behaviors – like bullying, leaving someone out, and just plain, old-fashioned meanness – has on their peers. Because of this self-centeredness, kids can’t always see things from the other child’s perspective or even understand how the other kid feels. That is not to say children are innately unkind, far from it. In most cases, children want to help others, and we, as teachers and parents, can build on the natural instinct toward empathy and encourage children to think before acting while teaching them to exercise kindness.
When it comes to teaching kindness to the kids around us, we must exemplify kindness ourselves. We’ve all heard the adage, “Talk the talk, walk the walk” and that is where we need to begin. Young children copy the actions and speech of the adults around them, so we have to be an example worth following!
Teach the children in your life the Golden Rule (aka the ethic of reciprocity), “Do to others.” It’s simply the principle of treating others the way you want to be treated. Ask children to consider how they would feel if they were being made fun of versus being praised and act accordingly.
Piggybacking off the Golden Rule, teach your kids great grandmother’s wisdom, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Get your children in the habit of saying things that will make others feel good, and keep criticism and negative comments inside.
Good manners and respect should be taught as a part of kindness training. “Yes, ma’am,” “No, sir,” “Please,” and “Thank you” go a long way at home, in the classroom, and in the community in exhibiting and sharing kindness.
Be kind to everyone, especially your child(ren) because we all know kindness is contagious and honestly, makes us feel good! As we provide the example, the best form of teaching, the children in our lives and under our influence will grow into kind, happy, and loving adults.
Though we are all born with a natural instinct to empathy, it must be nurtured and taught effectively to grow. Teaching kindness at home, school, and work should be our daily goal – ingrained in our hearts and minds and exhibited in our lives.