5 Ways to Raise Kinder Children
Among other parenting worries, it’s easy to stress about raising kind and empathetic kids. They’re too plugged into their phones! They roll their eyes whenever you speak! Still, with a few small gestures (and personal behavior tweaks) your kids can and will turn out as kind as can be.
Start By Practicing Patience at Home
You’ve got dinner to make, a million emails flowing in and your kid needs help with homework, all at the same time. Still, being in the moment—and sensitive to how you treat and prioritize family and friends around you—is a trait that really does rub off. In fact, a report from Harvard University explains that the way we react to our kids’ emotional needs helps them feel valued. And, in turn, they are more likely to value others. A win-win.
Put Kids in Situations Where They Have to Think of Others First
Maybe it’s a volunteer project on a Saturday. Or something smaller like suggesting they give up their seat on a busy train. Once the act of kindness has occurred, talk to them about it and gently encourage them to share details about who they helped and how it made them feel. This will help kids relate to other perspectives—and recognize the difference even a tiny gesture can make.
But Don’t Reward Them for Helping Others
Reminder: Pitching in to help clean up the community park on a Saturday is the reward. While it’s tempting to incentivize or offer material rewards for completed acts of kindness, remember that it defeats the purpose. (Kids should help others always, not just when they think they’re getting something in return.)
Help Them Talk (and Work) Through Feelings of Frustration
Whether it’s a sibling quarrel about sharing toys or sh** that went down with their BFF on the playground, having an open dialog with kids about the feelings they felt or things they said in the moment that were the opposite of kind can help them see both sides of a situation and express (and understand) their own empathy, even after the fact.
And Make It a Point to Do the Same
Ugh, that lady just cut you off in traffic and you yelled a few choice words in her direction. Whoops. Just as you’re asking your kids to do, talk through your reaction and how you felt and why it’s important to understand even a reckless driver’s point of view. For example: Maybe she’s having a bad day. Or had an urgent place to be. The goal is to teach your kids to think outwardly. (It’s also A-OK to reference that the lady was still in the wrong.)