How To Teach Your Child To Be Kind

Being kind is to open our hearts, be friendly and considerate. It is a quality that comes naturally but can also be nurtured. As a parent, you can help your child become kinder to others.

By Jasmine Kaur

How To Teach Your Child To Be Kind
"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see." — Mark Twain

While packing her school bag, Bittu noticed that her rough note was missing. Unable to find it, she went to her mother, Alka:

Bittu: (In a worried voice) Mama, my rough note is missing and I don't have an extra notebook. What should I do?

Alka: Don't worry, we will buy a new notebook our way to school tomorrow.

Next day, on the way to school, Alka and Bittu stepped into the local bookstore to buy a notebook.

Bittu: Mama, can you buy me an extra notebook and pen, too please?

Alka: Sure Bittu. But, why do you need those?

Bittu: I will give them to Uma. Her parents are poor and cannot buy study materials when she needs them. So, she always tries to save paper and ink.

Like Bittu, most children are naturally inclined towards being kind to those around them. As the world moves towards becoming increasingly self-centred, children like Bittu with the ability to empathise and lend a helping hand, stand out.

According to Maria Popova, the famous writer, thinker and blogger: "The measure of true kindness — which is different from nicety, different from politeness — is often revealed in those challenging instances when we must rise above the impulse toward its opposite, ignited by fear and anger and despair." Surabhi Katyal, a student, says, "Kindness is about not making assumptions, willingness to listen, and being patient with people."

While kindness may mean different things to different individuals, what everyone does agree with is that, kindness has the power to usher in positive change, not only in the world around us but also within ourselves.

Why being kind is beneficial

How To Teach Your Child To Be Kind

On the surface, it does seem like kindness is all about giving and benefiting others. However, this isn't the case. Kindness also brings about benefits for you, the giver. Being kind helps us:

  1. Feel a sense of connection and satisfaction: Most kind acts involve engaging with others, which builds within us a sense of connection with them. This 'Feeling of connection' not only makes us feel good but also, spurs us to further engage in kind acts. So, it becomes an endless cycle.
  2. Experience better acceptance levels: Most of the time, those around take notice when someone engages in an act of kindness. And, research shows, that people like to engage with those who are kind. So, being kind does make us more acceptable to others. Besides, it also increases self-acceptance as is proved by Tkach in his study, 'Unlocking the treasury of human kindness: Enduring improvements in mood, happiness, and self-evaluations', published in APA Psychnet. The study notes, '…individuals who systematically performed different acts of kindness for a period of 10 weeks reported slightly higher levels of self-acceptance."
  3. Feel more happy: To make a difference in the life of someone with an act of kindness makes us feel happy and relaxed. Research shows that a certain area of the brain gets activated when we indulge in generosity. A study by Otake et al, ' Happy People Become Happier through Kindness: A Counting Kindness Intervention' was published in the Journal of Happiness Studies (2006). The study showed that 'a reciprocal relationship may exist between kindness and happiness'. The findings further suggest that individuals felt happier after counting the number of times they were kind.
  4. Decrease stress levels: Being kind makes us feel happy and relaxed. This helps in lowering stress levels. Scientist and best-selling author, Dr David R Hamilton, in his book, The Five Side Effects of Kindness, elaborates that kindness makes us feel relaxed and decreases blood pressure. Feeling happy also affects our emotions, increasing the positive and reducing the negative emotions.
  5. Enjoy better physical and mental health: Numerous research studies have shown that increased feelings of happiness and positive emotions, and lower levels of stress, are all related to improved health and longevity. So, being kind also has a positive effect on our lifespan.

Encouraging children to be kind to others

To help others without expecting anything in return comes naturally to most children. As parents, encourage this inherent tendency in your child, so that she continues to be kind to others.

Writer Anne Herbert coined the phrase: ‘Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty’. The idea was to inspire the world to indulge in spontaneous acts of kindness. For example, there is a hundred-year-old tradition in Italy called caffe sospeso (suspended coffee). It started out in working-class cafes when someone would buy one coffee, but pay for two. The second coffee is kept pending, until someone who cannot afford to pay or is in need comes and asks for a sospeso. What a beautiful and heart-warming tradition!

Random acts of kindness

"A random act of kindness can be as simple as making a connect with a person – eye contact, a greeting, a smile, a kind gesture, an empathetic expression. These fleeting yet significant micro-moments alter brain chemistry and make us feel good about ourselves and about others." — Arundhati Swamy, Head, Parent Engagement Programmes, ParentCircle

These unexpected acts of kindness helps us become more empathetic and compassionate. It also gives us a feeling of being connected. 

Here is how you can encourage your children to set in motion a series of positive developments their lives:

  1. Sharing food with peers: The old adage, 'The way to the heart is through the stomach' still stands true. Encourage your child to share his snack or lunch with his peers when you pack something special for him.
  2. Making gifts for others: Everyone feels surprised and happy receiving a gift. However, nothing makes a receiver feel more special than receiving a hand-crafted gift. For, it shows that the giver cares deeply. Inspire your child to make artifacts, paintings or drawings when she wants to gift those with whom she shares a special bond.
  3. Saying heart-warming words: As we said earlier, kindness is not about giving materials, it can also be about saying things that make others feel happy. For example, paying a compliment or greeting someone warmly and wishing them a good day.
  4. Giving company: To the lonely, the company of someone to speak with can be the greatest gift. Encourage your child to spend some time with elderly individuals in the neighbourhood who are usually alone. Or you can take him to a home for the elderly in your city where he can spend time interacting with them and thus, spread some cheer.
  5. Helping with chores: Once in a while, the going can get tough for anyone, and any help is welcome. Teach your child to lend a helping hand to those in need. For example, she could help a friend complete a project or aid her teacher in arranging books in the classroom cupboard.

Acts of kindness can not only make the giver and the receiver feel good but also, have a cascading effect by encouraging others around to be kind as well. So, let’s go and spread some kindness in the world!

About the author:

Written by Jasmine Kaur on 9 November 2018.

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