Dinusha Manjarie Wickremesekera
Can you imagine a world in which we are all kind to each other? We would all like to live in such a world. But this world we must consciously create and a good place to start is by nurturing kindness in our children.
If I was to ask you what is kindness, what would you say? Would you explain it to me in terms of the abstract concept it is or give me a concrete example of an action that is kind? Maybe you might tell me what kindness is not.
Sometimes it isn’t easy to define a value, even though we all know what it is and we know it is something that we would prefer in our lives. If it is tough to explain it to an adult, can a child understand kindness?
Children experience kindness every day – we teach them to be kind with words when we teach them to say thank you when kindness is shown to them. We tell them to share. Kindness should be something that we actively nurture and demonstrate. Children must learn to be kind to others and kind to themselves.
Talk to your children about kindness by linking it to behaviors. This conversation can start when they are 3 – 4 years old, but this is not a single conversation but a repeated conversation. Talking about kindness, modelling kind acts, or labelling acts as kind are important ways that children will learn: what is kindness, how to be kind and do kind things, and how it feels when we do kind acts. Be careful how acts of kindness are rewarded – it is recommended that acts of kindness be rewarded with acknowledgement of the act and how the kind act made the giver and the receiver feels and hugs, as opposed to material rewards. Rewards help children learn, but sometimes the learning is that this is the way to get a reward and not necessarily the significance of the act itself.
Sharing and generosity; consideration for another over self-interest; helping someone or just including them in a conversation or game, or even smiling are just some examples of kind acts. There are many more. In conversation, it is important to look at how each of us likes to be treated and extend that same behavior to others. With younger children, this conversation would be easier if you were discussing a story you just read or a movie you watched, or recalling a time that someone showed kindness and how that makes us feel.
As children get older (7 – 8 years old) and have a greater understanding it is also important to talk about how it isn’t always easy to be kind sometimes because we might want the toy that must be shared for ourselves. Being kind sometimes means that we have to give up something that we would very much like. Children must know that it is ok to feel this way and how to deal with this.
Today, with the increased use of technology we are making less and less eye contact. Eye contact is an important part of developing connection and developing empathy. When we look at each other’s faces we understand how a person is feeling. Kindness is closely associated with empathy. When we can empathize with someone it is much easier to act with kindness towards that person. Keep this in mind and try to ensure that children have a balance between being with technological gadgets and being with people.
Always remember to be kind to yourself in word and deed regardless of what happens. When children see you be care of yourself with a much needed break, or treat or self-nurturing actions – they too will model this.
Teaching Children the Power of Kindness. Barry Lane. TEDxCCSU
Ways to Teach Your Kids Kindness How You Can Teach Kids to Be Kind to Others (and Why You Should. Katherine Lee
35 Acts of Kindness Calendar (Free Printable)
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