Teach them kindness matters.
It’s true that some kids are more innately sensitive and kind. It comes easily to them to care for others; it’s instinctual. They actually feel others’ pain as much as their own.
Most other kids, however, learn kindness from a variety of life experiences and most importantly from their primary caregivers. Parents play a significant role in molding what children have been genetically given, and sometimes, those same parents have not been taught about kindness in a deliberate way.
First, let’s understand the definition of kindness.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines kindness as “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” The Urban Dictionary goes further to say that “kindness is doing something and not expecting anything in return. Kindness is respect and helping others without waiting for someone to help one back. It implies kindness no matter what.”
Why kindness matters
Being kind can open a lot of doors in life – in making new friends, getting along at the office, establishing enduring love relationships, bonding the family together, and interacting with members of society. It’s table stakes. You can’t live a very fulfilled life without being kind and genuinely embracing kindness.
Beyond the immediate benefits for yourself, kindness matters to others – it matters to the world. In an age of entitlement and speed, where the lack of respect for things, patience, working for something, or savouring the moment is more commonplace. Bullying and cyberbullying are more prominent and rampant. Sadly, some kids can become cruel and vengeful, instead of respectful, giving, and loving.
Even sweet kids like yours can develop self-esteem and emotional regulation issues right under your nose. And these can all fester and result in unwanted behaviours that spill over into other parts of your kids, lives, too.
Kindness is a decision you take in the moment to make someone's life better. With one smile, one look of understanding, one gesture, or one word, you can change a life.
Make the difference and show your kids what kindness looks like, and how they can be kind themselves.
Here are five ways to instill kindness in your kids so they can live authentic and altruistic lives:
1. Show yourself kindness.
Kindness starts with you. If you can show yourself compassion, you can truly model it to someone else. Make self-care and self-compassion your biggest priorities, because if you don’t, you won’t have any kindness to give anyone else. Treat yourself to an ice-cream, nap, or a massage. Forgive yourself when you mess up or when you’re going through a difficult time.
Fill up your own kindness tank first.
2. Model kindness to them.
Demonstrate kindness toward others (and yourself) so that your kids see kindness in action. Volunteer at a food bank or shelter and let them see the impact of your actions on someone else’s life. You can teach them everyday kind gestures, too, when they observe you giving someone an unexpected gift or simply extending a compliment.
Talk about the act of kindness afterward, too, so that your actions are reinforced. “Did you see her face when she opened the card? She was crying tears of joy. It made me so happy to see her that way!”
Show them that caring for others is an important part of life.
3. Teach them about empathy.
Let your kids experience what it’s like to feel someone else’s pain – or joy. Allow them to literally walk in another’s shoes. You can do this by introducing them to different cultures and having them experience life as if they were a different person. Take them to your local pioneer village, museum, ethnic neighbourhood or cultural centre. Travel the world.
On a regular basis, get kids involved in caring for younger siblings and connect them with older adults. Exposing kids to a wider range of perspectives, encouraging curiosity instead of judgment, and promoting inclusivity are great ways to develop empathy.
Help your kids to see that there is never a reason to tear someone else down to build yourself up, to belittle or embarrass someone, to show intolerance or hate, or to harm another living soul.
Show your kids that everyone is valuable and equally deserving of kindness.
4. Help them to regulate their emotions.
Help your kids to see that there are positive, healthy, and productive ways to process and channel their emotions. Frustration, anger, and jealousy may come up and these feelings may be ok to feel, but not always appropriate or helpful to act out. Acknowledge their feelings, and then teach your kids to identify their emotional triggers, and how to manage them. This might involve deep breathing, counting to ten, or stepping back or out of the room until they can regroup, regain their perspective, and act more considerately.
5. Catch them doing good.
Notice when your kid is demonstrating kindness. Tell them, “That was so kind of you to…” and clearly explain the positive difference they made.
Be careful not to scold them or shame your kids when they forget a thank you. Instead, stick to praising them when they are well behaved, able to control their emotions, and in a ready place to show others consideration, empathy, and generosity.
When you’ve shown your kids that kindness matters, they will not only be responsible members of your community, but they will get more joy out of life. Your kids will one day thank you for teaching them about self-compassion, doing unto others, empathy, and channeling their emotions for good. You’ll have raised great kids who will positively enrich the lives of others they meet and who will do great things for themselves, their own kids, and the world.
Lisa Petsinis is a certified life coach who works with strong and resourceful women to build lasting life skills — like confidence and resilience — that will help them achieve their life goals. Sign up for her newsletter for even more advice, or contact her for a free breakthrough call to jumpstart the changes you want to make in your life today.