This piece on nurturing kindness in our children comes originally from the Growing Together Newsletter which is produced in Lafayette Indiana – as you might figure out from the opening paragraph. The newsletter is distributed here by The Lifestart Foundation. We may not be dealing with the level of challenges facing America at the moment but nurturing kindness is always a good idea and could even make family life easier.
If you can’t say something nice …..
No matter where your opinions fall on the political spectrum, most of us are agreed that recently we have witnessed extraordinary instances of behaviour in adults that would have been enough to get you sent straight to time-out in the typical preschool. We could start with name-calling and go straight downhill from there. Assuming the adults involved are not about to change their life-habits, I think our only hope is to concentrate on what we can do to instill behaviours of kindness in the children we are raising now.
Becoming a kind person is definitely a key to the path towards happiness. For one thing, the habit
of kindness extends to ourselves; it is hard to be happy if you’re being unkind to yourself. Establishing clear guidelines for behaviours that demonstrate being a caring community member is a far more certain predictor of future success than are the good grades that seem so important to so many parents.
So how do we nurture the attributes of kindness and caring in our
First and foremost, parents must walk the walk. You know as well as I do that children learn more by example than by any other way. Your kids love you and want to be like you. They need to see that you are a kind person. They need to see you address others respectfully, whether family,
friends or strangers, and no matter how your patience is tried.
There is no way that you can teach kindness when you are making angry gestures at someone, yelling at the representative on the phone, or treating servers rudely. The best side effect of walking the kindness walk for your kids is that you will yourself become a happier, nicer person as well, carrying far less stress in your daily encounters.
And then, talk the talk. When you are talking with teachers in your children’s presence, don’t ask only about school work, but inquire whether your kids are good community members. Not only does this demonstrate your value system to the teacher, but it also impresses the children about the importance of kindness to their family. Who knows what the ripple effect of this would be, as the teacher reflects on how the classroom supports developing prosocial skills.
Make it part of your family dialogue to discuss individuals’ actions and their motivations. As children
consider cause and effect, they come to understand the effects of caring and kindness in their interactions with others, as well as on their positive sense of self. A child who sees herself as kind
will modify her behaviours accordingly.
Expand your circle of concern.
As parents model community service, children become aware that their caring community can expand. Gently, parents help children move out of their comfort zone and learn empathy,
understanding that others may have vastly different experiences and needs.
Appreciate and pay attention to instances of kindness both small and large demonstrated by your kids, whether within your household or beyond. Such attention acts as positive reinforcement, strengthening prosocial tendencies. When we pay attention to acts of kindness, we are likely to
see them increase.
As with everything, this is a process of teaching over time, not just something we can pencil in on
the calendar for next Monday. But think of the impact if every parent concentrated on teaching kindness!