It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice. -Author Unknown
I’ve often told my kids that I don’t expect them to be friends with everyone they meet, but I DO expect them to be nice to everyone. While some children seem to be born naturally kind, others need careful “training.” As a mother to both kinds of children–the naturally kind and the teachably kind–I’ve noticed several simple steps to foster kindness in kids.
How to encourage your children to be kind
- Be a model of kindness – children learn best when they can look to and follow a good example. Be the kind of person you want your children to be…because they WILL model your behaviors whether you want them to or not.
- Kindness starts at home – When I was a kid, I sang a short song that went like this:
“I want to be kind to everyone
For that is right, you see.
So I say to myself, remember this:
Kindness begins with me.”
Like most important lessons, children learn the value of kindness at home first. Before they have friends and school mates, they can practice kindness within the family.
- Start small – practicing kindness doesn’t have to be big. Being kind can be as simple as remembering to say hello, or smiling when you pass a friend in the hall or the grocery store. Reminding kids (and adults!) that kindness is built on small, reachable actions encourages them to do more.
- Point out kind acts – when you see someone do something kind, point it out. Saying it out loud and bringing attention to your kids’ kind acts as well as the kind actions of others builds a catalog of “things I can do to be kind” in a child’s brain. Pointing out kindness is also a gentle, positive reminder of how you want them to act.
- Point out their feelings – being kind feels good. We all want to feel good. Get children used to the good feeling they get when they are kind, and they’ll crave more of it.
- Be grateful – when a kindness is shown, say thank you and encourage your children to do the same. Gratitude is another step in learning to be kind.
- Report back – give your children accountability. At the end of every day or every week, discuss the kindnesses shown to them as well as the kindness they’ve shown to others. When they know they have to report back, they’re more likely to keep their eyes open for opportunities to show and receive kindness. Dinner time and bed time are both wonderful times to share “kindness reports.”
How do you encourage kindness in your children?
Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are. -Author Unknown
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