We live in a crazy world. A world where we live focused more on-screen than face to face. We live in a world where we think our needs and wants are more important than others needs and wants. Instant gratification is more important than the feeling you get after working hard to accomplish a goal. We live in a world where we shelter our children from the harshness of the world but fail to realize that sheltering them, is only hindering their ability as adults. Do we want to raise generations that become more and more desensitized to their effect on others? Teaching kindness matters. Showing children how to be kind matters.
As I have mentioned in other posts, children do not understand empathy until the end of early childhood around age 7. Children until that point are naturally egotistical and do not think about how their words and actions affect others. This is why it is so important to teach children how to be kind to others and themselves.
Teaching Kindness Through Books
Early literacy itself is so important. The more children are exposed to print the better off they will be in school. Here are three books I love to teach kindness
How Kind by Mary Murphy
This book is about small acts of kindness. One animal is kind to the other which inspires them to be kind and pay it forward. Spoiler alert: It comes full circle at the end. The first animal is the last to have it paid forward. It is so simple and uses the words, “How kind!” over and over. When working with young children this is a great to introduce kindness and start using words such as, “How kind!”
The Last Stop On Market Street by Matt de la Peña, Illustrated by Christian Robinson
This book not only teaches kindness but also optimism. Things may not always go your way, but it is important to still be kind and see the light in the dark. A grandmother teaches her grandson to lift others up, even on bad days. It is a great way to show children that their actions, even as children matter.
Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners by Laurie Keller
This book is about the Golden Rule: Treat others how you want to be treated. That rule has stuck with me since I was in elementary school. If I could have one law for everyone to follow it would be this. This book focuses on treating others with kindness, just how you would want to be treated. Although I know this is over the some of the kiddos head sometimes I will ask, “Would you want them to do that to you?” Usually the answer is no and then we talk about why the action or word was unkind and if they wouldn’t like it they shouldn’t do it.
Play is also a huge way to teach kindness (and other topics)
Teaching Kindness Through Play
Children learn so much through play. Most importantly, they learn social skills while interacting with peers. While engaged in play children will have to think about what they want and what their peers want. They will have to handle disagreements and find ways to get their needs met.
With a lot of young children, they take what they want regardless of who has it. When that happens children begin to argue or they begin to tattle. Both of which are not helping your cause. Instead, get down on the child’s level. Explain their feelings: “Look how sad/mad/angry Jimmy is because you took the toy he is playing with.” Often times children need to see that their actions hurt others and that you, the adult notice and call them out.
Discuss the issue with them. “I see that you both really want to play with this truck. Was it kind to take it away?” Hopefully, they say no, it was not kind. Sometimes I’ll say “Just because you want it does not mean we get to take it” or “Jimmy was playing with a fun toy, but we made him so sad.” I always make sure to ask, “What is a kind way to get the toy?” We can ask for a turn, how many more minutes, or just wait until they are done. And then we do it. This way of problem-solving helps encourage independence and eliminate tattling.
I encourage children to speak up and say they do not like something. It is okay for children to stand up for themselves. When they say “I do not like when you push me” it shows the other child that their actions aren’t okay by some. At times while playing games where the bad guys are caught, some children do not enjoy being guided by their peers.
There are ways for children to get their points across while still being kind and respectful to their peers. Instead of yelling and tattling, children can say “please stop” or “No thank you.” The best way to learn is by doing and watching. I have told children before “Please do not lick me, I do not like that,” or “I do not want anyone sitting on my lap right now, but you can sit right next to me.” I can be a model for them.
Teaching Kindness Through Modeling
Children watch what we do. They hear what we say and repeat it. If we want to raise kind generations who ready to tackle the world, then we need to show them how to be kind and give them tools to tackle the world and be successful.
Teaching kindness through manners is a great way to start, even at young ages. It may be difficult, but the sooner you show your boundaries the easier it will be. Staying seated until everyone is done with a meal, using utensils to eat, taking turns, checking on others, and using eye contact are just a few ways children can learn manners.
My favorite Disney Princess is Cinderella. When I was little I liked that she had blonde hair and I had blonde hair so she had to be my favorite. As I have gotten older and analyzed it through an adult’s eye, I still love her. She is the queen of kindness. Regardless of how she was treated by others, she treated them with kindness and respect. That’s what how I want the world to be, how I want my children to be.
What is great with Cinderella is she was kind to everything. She is a great model for showing children that animals, nature, people, and possessions deserve respect and kindness too. Materials are bound to break eventually, hopefully through loving wear and tear through play. Sadly, they are sometimes broken by children not realizing that their actions have consequences, their actions are not kind to the materials.
Rather than getting upset that children are breaking materials, use it as a time to talk about kindness. “When we step on our books they break. When they break we cannot read them and that makes me so sad.” Redirect the child to their behavior and consequence rather than a punishment for being a child. Our kindness towards children matters.
Thanks so much for reading! How do you teach your children kindness? Let me know in the comments!
Teaching kindness inspiration came from The Power of Kindness Ted Talk by Orly Wahba.
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