Peaceful Parenting Part 3: How To Raise Kind Kids
Part 3: How To Raise Kind Kids
By: Charlotte Laila
One of the most important things I can teach my children is to be kind to others. Kindness above all else is what I believe will make an impact in this world.
When I was a kid growing up we only had one rule in our household - Respect. If you respect each other you will not fight, you won't take each other's stuff, you won't break someone else's things, and you will respect and obey Mum and Dad. And for my sister and I, that worked great. We weren't ever at each other's throats, hardly fought at all and were generally very well behaved obedient kids. And it was not that we had strict parent's at all but rather were taught to respect each other.
Now, as a Mom myself, I wanted to take that model my parents instilled in me as a child and make it my own. For me, kindness above all else is what matters. Not only am I respecting others when being kind but I am also extending love to that person.
As parents, our goal is generally to set our kids up to have the best life they can. We all want the best for our kids and I'm sure that's something we can all agree on. This means giving them the skills they need to manage the world and succeed. We need to provide them with a solid foundation so that when they hit adulthood they are ready to be off on their own.
Wouldn't it be great if the foundation we helped build created caring, empathetic, and kind human beings? Because that's what the world truly needs. How do we help our children grow up to be the kind generation of the future?
Lead by example.
Be the caring, empathetic, kind human being. Be the person you want your child to be. Children learn by example. Have you ever done something then realized your child copies exactly what you do? Or a situation comes up and you realize that your child reacted exactly how you do.
I've noticed this time and time again with my daughter, and not just with things that I do but her Dad as well. He is her biggest hero. If he's sitting on a bench a certain way she copies how he's sitting. If he moves his legs to a different position she does the same. Children mimic our behavior, it's how they learn to navigate the world.
The things we do and say have a huge impact on how our children perceive and respond to what's going on around them.
So what you can do to encourage kindness is to be a good friend, accept and love differences, use manners. Embody and be an example of good morals and kindness. Think about how you treat the people you interact with every day. And not just those friends and family you have. How do you talk to or treat the grocery clerk? How do you talk about your in-laws when they're not around? Your children see your behavior, they're looking to you to see how to treat others.
Create an environment that breeds kindness.
Encouraging sharing, kind words, encouragement. Be inclusive and understanding of others. As I was saying at the beginning of this post, as a child myself growing up the one rule in our home was to respect one another. This applied to everyone who entered our home. If we had friends over they knew the rule. If my parents had friends over they also knew the rule.
They created an environment that was kind and respectful and this is where we grew up. It wasn't something we had to be taught, it was part of who we were and how we acted. We didn't have to think twice about helping someone who got hurt on the playground because if someone fell off their bike and scraped their knee at home we would get an adult and help them into the house. We didn't have to be taught not to seal someone else's stuff because at home we knew to respect other's things and if we wanted to use it we would ask.
Now, I'm not telling you to have one single all-encompassing rule in your home. We all have our own ways we live and teach our children but what I am saying is you can create an environment in your home and with your children that encourages kindness.ThIf you and your spouse yell at each other and yell at the kids this environment breeds defiance and children who yell at others rather than extend kindness. Yelling and fighting are what they learn to do when in a conflict situation or when they're frustrated because that's the environment they grew up in.
Think about what kind of environment you have in your home, does it encourage kindness?
Be generous, and I don't just mean sharing a sip of your $6 Starbucks drink with your toddler. I'm talking about being generous with your time, your talents and wealth.
My husband is a sweetheart when it comes to beggars on the street. Living in Vancouver there is a large homeless population. You can't walk the street anywhere without coming across someone less fortunate asking for money. Time and time again people pass them by (which is better than giving them money because they can use that for drugs.) but often times they really are hungry. So my husband, Chris, will often ask them if he can buy them lunch or dinner. His generosity is in that we have time and ability to go into the closest store and buy them a sandwich and coffee. He will often spend some time chatting with them as well.
This is the generosity I'm talking about. Going out of your way to do something kind for someone else.
Another example is something Chris and I have experienced more recently. When our daughter was born she had colic. We went weeks and months with out any sleep. We were so exhausted we hardly had the energy to eat let alone prep, cook and THEN eat dinner. One of the most kind and generous things our friends and family did for us was make and bring us meals. Not only did it fill our hungry stomachs but it filled our hearts and souls as well.
So if you know of someone who lost a loved one, a job or is going through a hard time be generous to them. Give them more of your time, if you're a good cook, be generous with your gift of cooking or baking and bring them something.
Seeing this generosity will make a big impact on your children.
Teaching your child about emotions and feelings helps them become a kind kid. Learning about and understanding our own feelings helps us empathize and connect with others.
This can be tricky with really little ones because they are still learning about bigger concepts like how others feel and think but you can start small with your toddler. One of the best things I did with my daughter was read her a silly book about emotions. From early on she would see the happy face in the book and mimic the face. Then see a sad face in the book and mimic the sad face, etc. She began to pick up on how I was feeling when looking at my face. If she saw my smile she would say "Mommy happy!" and I would of course tell her that she was right, I was happy. If she saw that I was sad (I blame pregnancy hormones) then of course I would confirm that I feeling sad and explain why.
This has since turned into a greater understanding of feelings and emotions. Now, when she's sad she will tell me and explain why (usually our dog steals her snack or that she doesn't want a nap.) But it has also helped her understand other's feelings as well and in turn respond kindly to those emotions. If she sees a kid who looks visibly sad she talks calmly and gives them hugs or brings them a toy. She is kind to that person.
It can help in other ways too if your children can understand how others are feeling they can show them kindness. They can also understand better than taking someones toy isn't nice and makes the other kid sad. Or for older kids if a child is angry and frustrated your child can respond kindly to the child rather than saying something that will spark a fight.
Talk about ways you can be kind
The simplest way to teach your children to be kind is to talk about kindness. Brain storm things you can do for others that is kind. Sharing toys, listening to others, saying nice things about the other person, etc. It's such a great way to encourage the mindset of being a thoughtful kind person.
If you have time in the next few days I highly recommend asking your child to list a few ways they can be kind to others. Some of the answers you get might just make you laugh, like sharing their half eaten melting Popsicle, and some might be fantastic ideas that you didn't even think of, like drawing someone a picture and delivering it to them or donating their old toys to kids who aren't as fortunate.
You can also talk about the opposite of kindness, what hurts other people and things you shouldn't do because they aren't nice. We shouldn't push or hit other kids, we shouldn't scream at Mommy, we shouldn't take another kids toy. Be sure to offer the positive and kind option to each of these unkind things. If your child says "We shouldn't hit sister." ask them* what something kind we could do to/for sister instead of hitting.
* NOTE: I've said before in my previous Peaceful Parenting Posts that we don't want to just feed our kids the answers. We want them to be able to think of solutions and answers for themselves. So in asking our child what they think a good solution would be, we're offering them the opportunity to think for themselves so they can then go and do this themselves in the future.*
I challenge you this week to brain storm some acts of kindness with your little one and follow it through. If they want to share toys remind them when they are playing that being kind is sharing, draw a family member a picture and give it to them, help your sibling tidy their room, whatever their list has be sure to try and actively show kindness to others.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes!
If you like this post we have a series of Peaceful Parenting Posts started. You can check out the other post in this series below: