Kindness comes from an intrinsic desire to help those around us; however, it is also a trait that parents can encourage and develop in their children. In addition, kindness creates empathy, an essential social skill a child needs to thrive and survive.
However, teaching kindness isn’t as simple as memorizing your ABCs or learning to count. To learn kindness, children must be shown examples of what it means to be kind. Kindness, like other skills, has to be practiced.
So how exactly do parents create examples of kindness? By using situations in their child’s everyday lives!
Lead By Example
The best way to encourage kindness in a child is by leading by example. Children desire to emulate the important adults in their lives, so if they see you being kind, they are likely to copy your actions and words.
If you notice your neighbor’s mail on the sidewalk, pick it up and deliver it. If a friend feels sad, send them a note or offer to hug them. Let someone with a fussy child go ahead of you in the grocery store line.
It’s as simple as modeling kind behavior for your child and taking note of the world and people around you.
Take it a step further and share with your child why you’re doing what you were doing. For example, we let the man go in front of us at the store because his baby was exhausted and crying. They needed to go home and rest, and we had a few minutes to spare.
Teach your child that everyone in the family works together as a team. That means everyone helps! Even young children can pick up their toys, help set the table, or help make dinner. Older kids can learn to do their own laundry, take out the trash and recycling, and put groceries away.
There are many small ways children can help out around the house daily. By learning to help the family, you are encouraging kindness at home and elsewhere in your children.
Read Books About Kindness
Books are a fantastic teaching tool for all social skills. For example, reading books where the characters do some kind and no-so-kind actions creates discussion about why the characters acted the way they did.
Ask your child what they could have done differently. Or, What would you do in a similar situation?
Fantastic Books About Kindness:
- A Little Spot of Kindness by Diane Alber
- Kindness is My Superpower by Alicia Ortego
- What Should Darla Do? By Ganit & Adir Levy
- Train Your Dragon to be Kind by Steve Herman
- Have You Filled a Bucket Today? By Carol McCloud
Your child wants to help, but they’ll do things imperfectly and make mistakes. Being patient and encouraging will go a lot further than nagging.
When they make a mistake, avoid criticism; instead, say something like, “That’s ok! How do you think we can fix it?”Demonstrating patience when mistakes are made will teach them to behave the same towards others.
Create a Giving Jar
To encourage kindness, sometimes it’s helpful for children to see kindness. One way to capture kindness is a Kindness Jar. When you “catch” one of your kids being kind, write it down and place it in the jar. At the end of the week, share all the kind things you saw your kids doing!
Get Involved with Charity
Teach your child about charities and how they help people. Or talk about a friend or family member that could use some kindness.
A simple way to teach kids about charity is by creating a homemade collecting jar. Put a mason jar on your kitchen counter to collect change. Then, at the month’s end, discuss where to donate your change as a family.
Whether your child wants to buy gloves for a local charity or use the money to buy chocolate chips and send Grandma homemade cookies, giving them ownership of where the kindness is directed will go a long way!
One of the best ways to promote kindness in your child is by noticing them and their good deeds. When they help out or do something kind for you or someone else, tell them using specific words you noticed!
For example, “You cleaned up your toys without me asking you; that was so helpful, I really appreciate it!.” When you catch your child being kind and helpful and offer positive praise, they will want to repeat the action! Praise goes a long way in promoting most behaviors you’d like to see repeated.
Has your child done something kind today? Acknowledge it with this fun “I Was Kind Today” KneeBouncers printable.”
Updated July 16th, 2023, by L. Elizabeth Forry