As a parent, you’re your child’s first teacher. You teach them how to walk, how to eat, how to dress themselves, and how to read, write, and speak. You teach them every essential skill they need in life – without you, they wouldn’t be able to learn those crucial skills.
Just like you can’t expect a child to learn how to read and write naturally, you can’t expect them to develop empathy and kindness on their own. They need your guidance in order to develop social emotional learning – they can’t do it by themselves. Building kindness and empathy in your child takes time, and the following steps can help you teach these essential skills to them while they’re still elementary schoolers
Help them understand the meaning of kindness
Kindness is a skill that can be instilled in children when they’re still very young. Even if they aren’t able to quite understand what kindness means, parents are still encouraged to talk about kindness and practice it. Being empathetic means understanding the perspective of another person and being able to feel for them, while kindness and compassion mean acting on that understanding.
When a child is around 4 or 5 years old, it’s the right time to begin discussing kindness. A preschooler can understand the importance of treating others the way we want to be treated, while an older child such as a middle schooler can get a grasp on the concept of treating others in a way that feels best for them, even if that way may not be the best way for us.
Teach them how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes
Empathy and kindness go hand in hand, and in order to teach your child to be kind, you want to instill empathy in them early on. Empathy is an emotional skill kids can learn while they’re still in school since children become more aware of their own emotions around the age of 5 or 6. This is also a time when they begin to recognize emotions in people around them, and a time when they start to expand their emotional vocabulary.
Because they’re still very young, elementary schoolers need to be reminded that their words and actions have an impact on others’ feelings and emotions. The best approach to teach this concept is to get children to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. This can be done by asking questions such as:
- How would you feel if someone said something like that to you?
- How would you feel if someone criticized you or made fun of you?
- Would you like others to point out what you did right or put you down for the mistakes you made?
Teaching empathy means teaching kindness, so teach your child to always consider the emotions of others before saying something about someone.
Model kind behavior everywhere you go
Just like healthy eating habits and proper behavior, kindness starts at home, and a parent who models kind behavior everywhere they go can hope to raise a thoughtful kid. Children learn from everyday interactions, so make sure those interactions are always kind and caring, whether it means helping people in need, comforting someone who’s sad, or showing respect to others.
Donating time and money to take care of others and help them is perhaps the best way to model kind behavior. One way parents can do it would be to choose a career or a business that focuses on giving back. For instance, they can look into fundraising franchise opportunities that bring value to elementary schools. By becoming a franchisee and raising money for your child’s school, you get to give and you get to receive, and you also provide a valuable learning experience and a lesson for your child.
Teach them the language of kindness
A kind child is also polite and knows how to ask for something and respond to questions properly. They use words such as ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ and know that they shouldn’t talk rudely to anyone whether they’re their parents, teachers, friends, or strangers. This is why you want to pay special attention to the words you use when communicating with other people.
Good manners such as being polite when talking to others, greeting people properly, and waiting for your turn to speak are things that are taught at home. Consider how a child will apply what they learned throughout their entire life, you want to make sure that you teach them good manners early on.
Many of us aspire to make a change and make this world a better place. Sometimes, the best way to do it is to make your home a place of kindness and empathy and set an example for your child.
The world needs more kindness and empathy, and in a time when parents are obsessed with raising successful children, be a parent who nurtures real values such as kindness and empathy. Teach these moral virtues early on, and you’ll have no trouble raising a compassionate, caring, and kind individual.