We’ve all been that kid at one time or another: the new kid in class, the shy or uneasy child reaching out to make new friends, the new kid in the neighborhood. And as parents, we all hope our child will be the one to offer up a smile and welcoming hello to break the ice.
Teaching and modeling kindness gives children a life skill they will take with them forever. In a world where media bombard us and our children with talk of dislike, impatience and intolerance, teaching kindness to children is an important part of their healthy development – and their role in our communities. And the first lessons on this skill start at home.
Be a Good Role Model
Children learn to be kind by watching, so be sure you are setting a good example on how to treat others. Think about what words you use when talking about people of a different race, religion or culture. Talk with your children about helpful ways to respond to intolerant speech or acts with kindness and support instead of anger. Think about how you respond to others in your life from the letter carrier, to your child’s teachers, to family elders.
Create a culture of kindness in your home. Be sure everyone in the family is treated with respect and fairness and that your home is a place where everyone can share ideas and ask questions freely without criticism. Remind your children that people come from many different backgrounds, beliefs and family styles – even within your own family - and how those qualities make us unique. Encourage them to learn more about different races, religions and countries.
Kindness comes out of respect for others. Being active in school and community activities are great ways for kids to get to know other people from different cultures, beliefs and families. Talk together about groups they can join or activities they can participate in that are designed to bring people together for a common goal.
Give your children some ideas for how simple acts of kindness can really make a difference. Younger children can learn to share toys, while older children can learn to support those being singled out or bullied. Encourage your children to step into a “caring and courage zone,” by comforting a classmate who is being teased or reaching out to a new student. If they are not sure how to do this, ask them, if they were new in school, what would make them feel more comfortable? The answer could be anything from a companion for lunch, help finding a locker or a classroom, or something as simple as a smile and hello to make that person feel more welcome.
Now more than ever, leaning to be kind to others is an important lesson and an ongoing process that should take place throughout your child’s life. Teaching children to be kind creates a supportive, positive environment, making children – and those around them – feel better about themselves and others.
Additional Information from HealthyChildren.org: