The notion that kindness brings joy is hardly new. When children learn to open their hearts to others, they will feel more confident and fulfilled. There are many small things kids can do to make an impact on others, such as volunteering to take notes for a friend who is home ill or sharing a textbook with a classmate who forgot it. Simple acts like these help people in big ways; and, in return, your children can establish stronger relationships and a sense of self.
Indeed, teaching kindness to kids will benefit them in several aspects of life. The article “Kindness as a Stress Reduction–Health Promotion Intervention” by David A. Fryburg, MD, published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, explains that kindness carried out through activities such as donating money, expertise, or services to important causes will help reduce stress, bring greater happiness, increase self-worth, and improve overall health. Frybrug states, “the use of kindness images offers a simple, low-cost, and passive intervention that has the potential to promote quality of life and good health.” Thus, simple acts of kindness can create an uplifted environment where people feel happier and healthier. Check out our Random Acts of Kindness blog for some suggestions.
When should you teach children about kindness?
It is never too early to teach children how to be kind. You can start talking about kindness when kids begin to have a better awareness of the inner workings of the world around them, which usually starts around the age of one. For instance, when you and your child are on a crowded bus and you see an elderly person standing next to you, it’s a perfect opportunity to teach your kid how to be kind by modeling it. You can yield your seat for the senior stating, “Would you like to sit here?” Demonstrating and explaining to your children why they should treat other people kindly is a great way to start.
We, educators at Educate. Radiate. Elevate., love to teach our students to become responsible and kind-hearted citizens. E.R.E. is more than just a tutoring organization. We strive to help our students become conscious leaders who make positive changes in their own lives and the lives of others. Therefore, besides tutoring them in academic subjects, we also teach our students to be kind, giving, and considerate. Here, we share seven tips to help the children in your life embrace kindness.
1. Model how to love and care for others
To teach your kids how to love and care for others, you can start by showing that you love and care for them. You can spend time with them, discussing their feelings, ideas, and stories. Since children are still inexperienced in dealing with problems that arise in their lives, you need to be on the lookout for struggles and help guide them to resolution. You can start by asking, “How are you feeling today?” or “What made you feel ___?”
Additionally, you can pay attention to your kids’ interests and find ways to intertwine them into your lives. For instance, if you know your child loves dinosaurs, you can get books about dinosaurs or if your kid shows interest in art, you can do crafts together. This shows them you care. Remember, children thrive in environments where they feel cared for and accepted wholeheartedly. Plus, you are serving as their first role model for how loving actions can have a positive impact on others.
2. Encourage kids to take care of others
Taking care of pets and the household requires love and dedication. So, you can teach children how to take care of others by giving tasks related to the well-being of your pet. Maybe create a sticky note to-do chart for children to track important pet care duties related to meals, playtime, exercise, and health. Furthermore, household chores such as cleaning, folding clothes, or watering plants will help them understand the satisfaction of helping others. As an added bonus, this also teaches responsibility and pride in one’s work.
3. Teach kindness from stories
Children love hearing stories. Therefore, books can be excellent resources for examples and discussion starters. Choose books that illustrate kindness in action, as well as what it means to be unkind. Some of our favorites are Fly Away Home, Somebody Loves You, The Giving Tree, and Pride and Prejudice. You can ask them questions like “What does it mean to be kind?,” “What does a kind person do?,” and “Can you tell me how ___ was kind in this story?” Listening to their responses helps you know how much they comprehend the story and gives you the opportunity to correct misconceptions. Also, you and your children can role-play acts of kindness (or unkindness) from the story. This is not only fun, but it also gives them the opportunity to experience the feelings themselves, thereby deepening their understanding.
4. Help kids appreciate differences
When children go to school, they meet different people from various backgrounds. Therefore, teaching them early on to embrace diversity is the best way to help prevent future prejudices and bullying. Also, it helps prepare them for the differences they may face, so that they are more likely to act with kindness when they do.
For instance, kids in their early years can notice differences in hair color. So, as parents, you can show dolls with various hair colors and textures. You can also tell stories about amazing people from different countries who are athletes, scientists, artists, or writers. You can ask your kids to choose a person they admire to learn more about his/her life story. This will highlight that person’s differences in origin, challenges, and outcomes. Kids are curious and love listening to stories, so this is an effective way for children to learn about how people different from them can bring unique ideas and talents to contribute in such a big way to society. With understanding and appreciation comes kindness.
As a teacher, you can incorporate experiences in the classroom that uplift the differences and similarities of children within the class. This shows that they are all part of one community, but they each have things about themselves that make them a unique addition to the group. You can compliment them like “You have blonde hair, and she has black hair, but you two are gorgeous the way you are.” Then they will know how to react to others respectfully, without discrimination, and with kindness.
5. Teach empathy
Empathy goes hand-in-hand with kindness because a better understanding of where others are coming from allows us to more effectively react to their needs more. Children primarily learn empathy from observation, especially from those most dominant in their lives (like their family, teachers, and peers). If your child is crying, as a parent you can kindly say: “You seem upset. How can I help?” This shows them that you value and empathize with their feelings.
Additionally, you can model empathy for others. For instance, when you and your kid visit a friend’s house, and she tells you her sad story, you can say: “I’m sorry you are going through this” or “It makes me really sad to hear this happened.” The kid will learn from you how to react with kindness in challenging situations. They will learn how to care for others as you do.
You can also help your children improve their empathy skills by exploring motivations for the behaviors of those people around them. You can ask your children to hypothesize about others’ motivations, such as “Why do you think she bumped into you? Can you think of another explanation?” or “Why do you think he is frustrated? What are some possible reasons?” Using literature and history to explore human emotions, motivations, and behaviors is another great strategy. For instance, when reading a book together, ask questions like “How do you think the main character feels? What signals tell you this?” Then you can ask them to consider how they would feel and act in that type of situation, as well as discuss how these specific behaviors can impact others. Conversations like these will help kids better understand how other people feel, increasing their empathy and desire to act with kindness.
6. Volunteer with your children
Volunteering is a simple act of kindness. And you can get your children involved! For example, if your children love cooking or baking, you can bring them with you to help cook or serve meals at a homeless shelter. If they are passionate about the environment, you can help them connect with an organization that plants trees or removes trash from the side of the road. For something more personal, you can work with your child to create and send thoughtful, inspiring cards to friends or family members who are undergoing hardship. Volunteering time, effort, and resources are some of the most powerful ways to make a difference while also demonstrating kindness.
7. Donate to those in need
Another simple act of kindness is to donate. You can ask your kids to donate books, toys, or clothing to youth in homeless shelters. This teaches empathy and gratitude, as well. You can donate to a charity and explain why you did so to your children. For instance, you can tell your kids how you support education and equity by donating to Educate. Radiate. Elevate. The nonprofit E.R.E. helps low-income children of color improve their subject-level mastery, soft skills, and learning methods. We know that, with the support of kind-hearted people like you, the students served by E.R.E. will go on to make a great impact on this world.
The article gives you some ideas on how to raise a generation of kind people. Teaching kids how to love, care, appreciate differences, be empathetic, volunteer, and donate are all great ways to uplift emotions. Plus, it helps your children, creates meaningful connections with others, and brings about lasting change in the world.
“Kindness is doing what you can, where you are, with what you have.”- Raktivist