Do you want your child to feel good? If your answer is yes, then teach him to be kind. For, showing kindness can help him share happiness, feel optimistic and be connected to those around him.
By Ramu Anil and Jasmine Kaur
The Collins Dictionary defines kindness as "the quality of being gentle, caring, and helpful". It is a virtue that is a combination of many positive qualities like generosity, empathy, mercy and compassion.
Studies show that when individuals perform acts of kindness, they feel happy and satisfied, and develop a positive attitude towards life. Similarly, practising kindness from a young age can help children create stronger bonds with peers and others. It decreases stress levels and also, makes them feel optimistic and happy. A 2015 study in the Journal of Developmental Psychology states that children, even preschoolers, who are taught to be kind, are "more willing to share with others". Being kinder, also "strengthened children’s ability to focus and modestly boosted their academic performance." But, can kindness be taught? Child development experts and psychologists believe the first step to kindness lies in building emotional intelligence in children. This helps them grow into more successful and social adults.
So, how can you, as a parent, raise a kind child? Well, here are a few things you can do to instil the feeling of kindness in your child:
1. Be a role model: Children are greatly influenced by their parents and tend to follow in their footsteps. This places a big responsibility on your shoulders, as you need to model the values you want your child to imbibe. However, modelling kindness isn’t a difficult task.
What you can do: Remember, your child is always observing you and learns by example. So, be nice to those you interact with, for example, remember to thank the server in the restaurant or your housemaid. Do not criticise others needlessly or, indulge in gossip.
2. Teach sharing: Children are very possessive of their belongings and are reluctant or unwilling to share them with others. Teach your child to be generous and share what he has with those around him.
What you can do: Although your child needs to be taught how to be generous, don’t force her to share or punish her for not sharing. Begin gently by pointing out sharing to your child and praise that quality. For example, when her sibling or friend shares something, praise them. Get your child to play games that involve taking turns. With time, your child will begin sharing.
3. Encourage the habit of helping others: Children are naturally inclined towards lending a helping hand. Encouraging your child to help others will make him aware that there are those who are less fortunate than him and need support. It will also help him learn how to reach out to others during times of need.
What you can do: Participate with your child in voluntary work organised by your local community. During occasions like festivals, take your child to an old-age home or an orphanage where he can interact with the members. You can also take along some gifts to distribute or organise a celebration there and, ask your child to be the host. Visiting and helping at the local hospital or veterinary clinic, is also a good idea.
4. Label unkind behaviour: While you are trying to sensitise your child and develop good values in her, you should also keep in mind that she will come across plenty of examples of individuals indulging in unhelpful behaviour.
What you can do: If you come across someone behaving in an unkind manner, point it out to your child and, make her understand that she should not model that behaviour. Teach her not to indulge in acts that hurt others emotionally or physically and, to always be mindful of the needs and concerns of those around her.
5. Instil empathy: It will be easier for your child to be kind to others when he is able to understand what they are going through. However, for your child to do this, he needs to become more empathetic.
What you can do: To nurture empathy in your child, begin by labelling feelings and making him understand them. Encourage him to talk about his feelings. Challenge him to guess what others are feeling by looking at their faces or their behaviour. Teach him to be polite and address others with respect.
6. Bring home a pet: Pets not only provide company, but also act as great stress busters. Children are attracted towards pets, feel responsible for them and are eager to take care of them.
What you can do: If you do not have a pet, think about getting one for your child and entrust her with the responsibility of taking care of the pet. This can help your child learn to be responsible, caring and kind. Spending time with pets will also help her develop patience and, learn to recognise nonverbal cues.
Although children tend to be self-absorbed, they are not unkind or selfish. In fact, connecting with others and feeling for them, comes naturally to children. With a little effort, you can help your child discover his natural, softer and kinder side.
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