Values are guiding principles that direct our behaviours and attitudes. They position us towards becoming people who are positive contributors to our family and communities. Though they are intangible and abstract, it is never too early to teach and develop values, such as kindness and compassion, in our children.
This is especially needed as we are now living in a time when it is so easy to post comments about others, making our judgements known publicly online. Hence it is important that we start teaching kids kindness from a young age.
As shared by Dr Setoh Pei Pei, Assistant Professor at Nanyang Technological University on a Baby Bonus article, what children are taught from an early age will set the stage for the decisions they make in the future and therefore how they will live the rest of their lives.
There are certain things you can do as parents to impart values to your children. The following are some ways to go about teaching kindness to your kids.
Teaching Kindness and Compassion to Kids
1. Teach kids kindness and compassion with intentionality
Kids can learn about kindness and compassion when parents teach such values with intentionality. That means that you have to get the little ones to understand what kindness means. Demonstrate what that value is like and each time when your child performs an act of kindness, point it out to him and commend him. Communicate care and warmth to your kids and get them into the habit of being friendly and finding nice things to say to someone.
For the older kids, get them to reflect on how others may feel when people (children and adults) do something wrong or hurt someone. Compassion arises from empathy so getting your kids to understand how others may feel when they are not kind is a good way to teach kids compassion.
2. Model Kindness
When it comes to teaching kids about kindness, how adults model that value has an impact on them. Children look up to parents as their primary role models and moral compass, so it is important that you keep check of the way you are responding to them and to others.
Children learn from what you say and do on a daily basis and when you walk the talk, they will internalise the values that they have been taught. In your day-to-day lives, do be more conscious of your words and behaviour even when it is not directed at your kids. Remember, little eyes are watching and kids are constantly learning from how you react to every situation.
When you show kindness in the slightest thing, they take note and put that action into memory and they will do likewise in time to come. Values, when taught to and caught by kids, will be truly effective.
3. Perform small acts of kindness
Performing small acts of kindness can start at home and you can do that by helping or caring for the young and old at home – your spouse, parents, in-laws, children, helper, etc. Ask them about their day and do little things to show that you care for their needs.
From a young age, teach your kids to be thankful for little things like the food that is on the table, the toys they have or the outfit they are wearing. Get them to speak encouraging and kind words to other family members. Do these often and you would have raised a kind kid.
4. Make helping a family affair
Volunteering as a family can be a feasible way to tackle the question of how to teach kids about compassion. As you and your family decide to spend some regular time with the elderly or the less fortunate, kids learn to share and care for others, with you taking the lead to model compassion to them.
By making helping a family affair, it not only teaches kids kindness during the process, but it is also a good and meaningful way to bond with your kids.
5. Read about it
How to teach kids about compassion and kindness? Read about them and discuss the stories with your kids.
There are many great picture books that carry the message about kindness such as Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoet and What Does It Mean to Be Kind by Rana DiOrio. Kids love to be read to and it should be a part of your daily bedtime or after-dinner routine. Even though reading can be a simple family activity, in reality, it can pave the way for a lifetime of dialogue and conversation with your kids.
Teaching kids kindness is not a mammoth task but it does take intentionality and perseverance to continue doing these things. At times, your kids may not look as if they are responding, or may not behave as if they have internalised these truths that you wish to teach them.
But take heart, over time, the seeds that you have so carefully sown will surely reap a rich harvest of kindness!