If there is one thing this world needs more of, it’s a little more kindness, and it is an admirable quality in children when they are naturally kind to others.
It is almost always a characteristic that others will remark upon together when they are not around the child or the parent. Although kindness in children is not a massively rare quality, it is usually a learned characteristic and, therefore, very notable when adults recognize this in a younger child.
Why is kindness a strange quality for a child to possess?
Some children are naturally kinder than others, but kindness can take many forms. Forms of kindness can include:
- Some kind children may be a little extra affectionate; whereby they want hugs, kisses and cuddles. They may give more affection to adults, other children, or both and generally be very friendly and open.
- They may be more willing to share, whether food, toys, or bringing someone presents like pictures or flowers from the garden.
- They may be a courteous child who is trying to be helpful to people they know or even strangers.
- It can even be seen in a child who shows genuine empathy towards others who look down on or upset them because they want them to feel better.
- These types of kindness are not alien to kids but to many children. They have not learned how to separate others from themselves.
- Children tend to think of their wants before others, mainly because they have had an entire lifetime of being waited on hand and foot by parents.
- While science debates whether kindness is a natural or nurture quality, there are a few reasons why you should work towards teaching kindness to your child regardless.
Why teach children kindness?
If you teach children from an early age to be kind, there is a much greater chance that they will not only continue to be kind but will be willing to call out behaviors that are not kind in other children or adults. Reasons to teach children kindness include:
- Teaching kids at a very early age, when they are essentially a sponge ready to soak up all of your advice, is key to instilling this trait.
- Children are likely to learn from their parents’ example until they reach elementary school when they start learning the new behaviors of their peers.
- Teaching them how to behave and giving real-life examples, such as giving to charity, helping people, or being polite at all times to everyone, ensures that they understand what it is to show kindness.
- No one wants their child to be “the bully,” but equally, no one wants their child to see a bully and not say something to a teacher or adult. Teaching kindness will help them empathize and help others they see in distress.
Tips on how to instill kindness early on
Children are very likely to pick up on your behaviors. Here are a few tips for instilling kindness in children:
- If you are not kind to others or are only kind to some, your children will notice this. Be ready to walk the talk when you talk the talk.
- Be yourself with children; if your child mentions an adult behaving badly or unkind to another, make sure to speak with your child about this and agree with your child that the behavior is wrong. Ask what they thought was mean and why. Make sure to validate their concerns and let them know it’s okay to say when unkindness happens.
- If your child does not seem naturally kind, you can play games to help them read social cues, such as a smile or sad face. Identifying subtle body language or nonverbal cues can help them understand emotional responses from another angle and help them empathize more.
- Make sure they acknowledge the feelings of others around them. Have they been selfish with a toy and upset another child? Or have they hurt a sibling? Talk to them in a way that does not shame the child but will get the point across lovingly.
- Be sure not to tease children; don’t say “toughen up” or call a child a “crybaby,” as this can encourage them to attempt to be “tough” against a quieter or smaller child to vent their anger. Playful teasing is fine, but anything that is mean-spirited or borderline name-calling should be avoided.