One educator pleads with parents to teach kindness at home, and provides easy ways to do so.
Is kindness going out of style? I recently read that 80% of students believe their parents prioritize academic success and happiness over being kind. And this concerns me.
While I admire parents placing value of raising happy, successful children, I still believe that you can’t achieve these outcomes without teaching kids how to be kind.
Let’s look at kindness on a biological level. When we are kind, stress levels lower, a sense of belonging increases, ability to concentrate rises, and there is a boost in happiness levels. Kindness has a core connection to success and happiness, making the necessity of kindness nonnegotiable.
So how exactly do we raise kind children? If you integrate simple practices into your daily parenting routine, you can raise kind children. Use these 5 steps to teach your children to be kind.
1. Set an expectation of kindness
Create a norm of being kind
Setting an exception of kindness is key to teaching children how to be kind. For children to become truly kind, kindness must be an everyday, all the time expectation. Kindness should not be an after thought or something that is sometimes expected.
Tips for creating a standard of kindness:
- Tell your children you expect them to be kind.
- Intentionally praise kind behavior – aim to be specific in your praise. For example, “I am very proud of you for being kind and sharing your new toy with your cousin.”
- When a child chooses not to be kind (unfortunately this may happen from time to time), with your child, brainstorm ideas for kind reactions/responses in the future. For example, “It wasn’t kind when you screamed at your sister after she took a book out of your hands. Next time she does something that hurts your feelings, how can you respond?”
2. Model Kindness
Model through yourself and by what media you allow your children to consume
I know you’ve heard it before, but I am going to say it again, children are like sponges. They absorb everything (good or bad) around them. They will mimic and react like you do and people on the screen do. Make a conscious effort to model kind behavior in your words and actions.
Tips for modeling kindness:
- Honestly evaluate of your own kindness habits. You can’t expect your children to have a norm of kindness if that isn’t your default.
- Be in tuned and aware of what your child is watching. Depending on your child’s age and interest, media could be Netflix, YouTubers, Snapchatters, or mainstream television and movies. Even though it takes time, insightfully monitor and discuss what your child consumes. (Pro tip: Check out Common Sense Media. They provide detailed reviews of most mainstream entertainment.)
3. Start small and build from there
Just like every other trait and skill we posses, or hope to posses, we develop with time. Raising kind children is a process over a lifetime. Start small and be consistent to build a lasting habit.
Tips for starting small:
- Begin teaching the basics. A simple, yet heartfelt, please, thank you, and excuse me is the foundation of kindness.
- Teach kids to share and give.
- Establish a baseline of kindness by teaching kids to open doors for people. Taking an extra second to think about the people around you is a powerful way to make raise awareness for the needs of other people.
4. Read books that build empathy
Books allow the reader to step in to the lives of others. This act of stepping into the reality of someone else powerfully builds empathy, which is the birthplace of kindness. Take time to read perspective changing books with your children.
Reading suggestions to build empathy:
- Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
- The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio
- Take a look at how my school used Wonder as a school-wide empathy building campaign
5. Be kindness detectives
Teach kids to detect kindness. By taking time to focus on kindness, kindness stays on our radar and encourages us to pay it forward.
Tips for becoming kindness detectives:
- Applaud kindness. Each night, around the dinner table, have family members share something kind they observed that day.
- Keep a gratitude log. Daily or weekly have children add to their gratitude log to keep track of kind moments they experience and how the kindness encounter made them feel.
- Write thank you cards. On a regular basis, have your children write a thank you note to someone they wrote about in their gratitude log.
Last and definitely not least, remember that raising kind children takes intentional practice over the course of a lifetime. I say this to remind you not to get too discouraged when your children make an unkind choice. It’s normal, just take it one day at a time. Each act of kindness adds to a foundation of love and respect.
About the All-Star Blogger
Janelle is a middle school health and physical education teacher by day and a teacherpreneur (ProjectSchoolWellness.com) by night. She holds a M.A. in Wellness and Lifestyle Management and a B.S. in Physical Education. When she isn’t taking on the world in the classroom or online, Janelle enjoys traveling the globe, running in Beautiful British Columbia and spending time her family and friends. Oh, and she is addicted to anything with a peanut butter + chocolate combo!