Teaching my child how to be kind to others is probably one of the most important character lessons to me. Being kind to others can span from being thoughtful to others, having empathy for someone else, feeling compassion for the less fortunate and lending a helping hand to those in need. Children actually are born with an innate desire and instinct to empathize and be considerate toward others.
The rewards for children who extend kindness to others are tremendous. Research has also shown that children who helped others tend to feel good about themselves. They are able to anticipate what others feel or think (perspective-taking) and learn to help others by using their problem-solving skills. In doing so, they also learn social skills, learn to work in teams and build friendships which are all core to their social development.
There are many ways you can encourage kindness at home or in school:
1. Talk about kindness
Share with the children what it means to be kind to others. List examples and seize teachable moments or opportunities for your child to learn how to be kind. For very young children, be specific about the ways they can be kind to others by listing down the kind acts as examples. Read books about kindness. There are many books out there who has characters learning how to be kind and exhibit stories where it pays to be kind. Stories can be one of the best ways to inspire your child!
2. Appreciate uniqueness of others
Discuss how each person is unique in his or her own way. They can be different physically, have different ways of doing things or different personalities. Show your child some leaves and ask your child to pinpoint how different each leaf is, or explain how we have different thumbprints and that’s how God made each and everyone of us special. Imagine a world where every flower or person is the same! That would be boring! We are to respect and appreciate the uniqueness of others and accept that it is perfectly alright if someone else is different from us.
3. Making kindness a rule in the house or school
Put up visual reminders at home or school to encourage your child how to be kind! Come up with short catch phrases like “A little kindness goes a long long way!” and use them as quick easy reminders for your children whenever an opportunity to be kind pops up during the day! Also, be quick to catch them doing kind things or saying kind words, and it will reinforce positive behaviour in children!
4. Model kindness
Be a role model especially for young children. Do kind acts and show them how to be kind to their friends by explicitly telling them to share, to hug someone who is crying, etc. And make sure you do the same and is consistent with your interaction with other family members too 🙂 Not an easy feat for any parent, especially when you are tearing your hair out with all the kids running around!
5. Celebrate kind deeds!
Be quick to catch them doing right! Praise and rewards like the kindness jar sure motivates them to want to be kind over and over again! Over time, children will progress from having these extrinsic motivation to being intrinsically motivated to help others for the reward of seeing others happy!
How to use the Kindness Jar
You simply need a jar or plastic container, and fill it up with pom poms or coins, or penne pasta!
Here are 10 examples on how your child can be kind:
1. Help Mummy to put away the toys
2. Help out with simple chores like wiping the table, clearing the plates after a meal
3. Make a card for someone’s birthday
4. Hug someone when they are sad or crying
5. Assure someone everything will be alright when they have a problem
6. Offer someone a tissue when they cry.
7. Give someone a plaster when they fall down.
8. Tell someone “I love you” or “thank-you”.
9. Appreciate the ideas of others by saying, “Great idea!”
10. Share your toys or food with a friend to make them happy!
Once they fill up the little jar with pom poms, you can reward them by doing something kind for your child in return!