Kindness and concern for others are regarded as moral virtues in almost every society and major religion. Unfortunately, unadulterated kindness is rare to find in today’s society. Many feel there has been a steady decline in values, and that individual advancement is becoming more and more significant than the ability to care for others. What is most overwhelming, however, is that this tide of unkindness is now reaching children.
A survey conducted by Sesame Street called “K is for Kind: A National Survey on Kindness and Kids,” unveiled that 70% of parents say the world is unkind to their children and 58% of teachers say most children today are disrespectful. Most people are quick to blame other societal factors for this. Some might say it’s the lack of kindness ailing new generations. However, it is clear that parenthood is a direct correlation. Most importantly, this survey helped us realize the importance of actively teaching kindness to children. Therefore, here are a few simple ways you can spark your kid’s wish to help – and what better time than the holidays to do so.
To truly demonstrate that kindness is a core value, try assigning chores to your children. Kids should understand that a certain amount of help is needed from them, and for no particular reason. Therefore, assigning tasks such as making their beds, cleaning the table, and washing dishes is an integral part of their understanding of kindness. By making them aware that they are not getting anything in return, you are instilling in them an innate obligation to help. Then, kindness will slowly become an instinctive character trait.
Share the Wealth
Teach your children to see the abundance around them and to think of people to share it with. Is your child’s room overflowing with toys and other personal items? Tell them that in order to purchase something else, they must first donate something they own to a donation center. To really bring the point home, make sure you demonstrate this as well. Baked too many cookies this Thanksgiving? Invite your child to take them to your neighbors. By doing this constantly, children will begin to see kindness as an inherent part of life. They will then find opportunities to help others without expectations of them returning the favor.
This might seem counterintuitive, but praising your child when they do something nice for someone else is a fool-proof tactic to teach them kindness. According to David Schonfeld, M.D., director of development and behavioral pediatrics of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, children are hardwired to be considerate and kind. He notes that kids help others primarily because it helps them get what they want. However, kids then do acts of kindness because they know they will be praised by their parents and loved ones. It is through this praise that they begin to anticipate the needs of others. Ultimately, it becomes intrinsically rewarding to be considerate and they begin to reflect true kindness with no expectation of praise.
Being kind to others feels good. It helps us step back from our own troubles and creates a sense of interconnectedness with the people around us. Let’s not forget the important role of kindness in our lives and let’s remind ourselves to teach it to our little ones in these three simple ways.