Some people think that there are people born different. It is just harder for them to show compassion, kindness, and to understand when they’ve done wrong. Look at that kid hitting his sister and thinking it’s fine! He’s just 6 and pretty much his parents didn’t teach him how to hit others.
It’s important for us to see this: He is six. He spent the last six years, never have been taught it’s bad to hit and how to be kind. It’s a big mistake, a terribly big mistake, to think that we cannot teach kids or even babies, how to be kind.
Parents are so obsessed and focused on being ‘financially successful’ in life that they forgot whether their kid has grown into a criminal mastermind or a corrupted politician.
Fortunately, there are ways parents can teach and reinforce kindness in their children. The challenge is real for some parents and especially older children, but according to a Harvard psychologist, you can follow these 5 steps and expect your kid to grow up to be a compassionate human being.
1. Prioritize teaching them how to care
Yes, you have to teach them! It’s very important that from early on, you show them pictures of people helping others and explaining to them why it’s important to do so. Teach them from simple things, such as saying thank you and sorry.
The point here isn’t just making those words habitual, but to let them understand the concept. People in other countries may have different ways of expressing gratitude during meals, for example, but the key is to get them to show gratitude.
And another vital thing about kindness: you can never have two priorities on top, only one can be up there. It is your decision to decide if the children’s grades at school, personal comfort, or caring for others should be their top priority.
2. Provide opportunities to practice it
Simply telling them what to do cannot sum up to practicing them hands on. And you might be wondering how to make this happen?
You have actually plenty of opportunities. For example, at home, you can teach them how to care for the pets. Get them to help you with feeding them, teach them how to lightly pet them, instead of hitting them because children can make impulsive movements.
Get them more involved in doing household chores – it doesn’t have to be hard! And what really matters is if your kid is still 5, you don’t expect him to be squeaky clean with those mops. Encourage the fact that he takes part but do not dote them on things that you know are supposed to be done around the house.
3. Expand their circle of concern
You want your kids to show concerns not just to yourself, but be recognized as someone who is kind and compassionate. Now, you have to be careful in doing this – some parents are facing the problem as their kids keep asking to give money to just any beggar. Others find their kid talking to complete strangers which expose them to risks.
Teach them to say thank you, because that other person has done something for them. Whenever they want to give money, always remind them to ask for your permission first. Especially when they are too young to make complex decisions, such as if the beggar was real, if the stranger looks dangerous, etc.
Accompany them during TV times and turn this into a habit. Explain to them and teach them to sympathize with weak characters in cartoons. Reinforce heroic acts and kindness that you watch. Teach them the simple things they can do to other people, such as sharing a piece of cake you just baked with them to a neighbor.
4. Be the role model
Nobody is the better teacher in kindness than you are. Children easily copy things their parents do, whether that’s good or bad. Even when they know it’s bad, seeing it every single day makes them think that it’s still okay.
Be a kind person yourself. Show how they can make people happier by doing so and be happy themselves. For example, getting into the #TrashChallenge and explaining how this can make animals happy and the world a better place is one way.
5. Teach them how to manage anger
Kids can feel sad and angry as well. Especially because other kids are not necessarily being taught how to be nice. What you need to remember is that it’s normal to feel like that. Relate to them, but do not encourage it.
Teach them how to calm themselves down. Do not agitate them even more, whatever they have to say in defense, don’t listen to that first. Tell them to take a deep breath, count to five, and release from their mouth in another five counts.
If they resort to destructive behaviors, after the kids are calmer, talk to them firmly. What they did will not help them and can hurt others. Especially because they can hurt themselves and you don’t want them to do that.