Teaching kids to be kind – Jonah Engler shows the way

Parents must teach kindness to their kids so that they learn to feel for others, which can manifest in many forms like compassion, empathy, generosity, justice, and alleviating suffering. They must learn kindness because it is the most fundamental expression that upholds the meaning of being human. When a small kid waves to an elderly neighbor, pats a worried friend on the back, share a cookie by breaking it with another sibling are all signs of kindness that results from the kid being able to see from the heart. Older kids show kindness by comforting a friend who is scared or sad, invite a lonely classmate to join at the lunch table, or donating a small amount for a cause that appeals to them.  

Regardless of the way you perceive kindness and whatever it means to you, helping your child to nurture it from a young age is the responsibility of every parent, feels Jonah Engler. It is possible to foster a culture of kindness in the family by taking a few concrete actions after focusing on the considerate habits of daily life laced with a certain measure of reflection.

Here are the ways of raising a band of kids who learn to embrace kindness from an early age.

Jonah Engler asks parents to make kids understand what kindness means

Start talking to kids about kindness much before they can demonstrate it. It is human nature to feel intuitive about how others feel because of the brain’s mirror-neuron system. This is evident when you see a toddler crying on seeing another toddler falling while playing. Use this opportunity to explain to her that she cried because she felt sad about seeing her friend in pain. While empathy shows up much early in kids, it takes some time to develop compassion, which teaches the child to do something on feeling empathy. Compassion forms when the child can separate I from you. Toddlers remain focused on me and mine, and you can gradually teach the child inclusiveness by using the terms we and us during communications.  Choose the time between 3-5 years, which is the best time to talk to kids about kindness.

Ask your kid if you should get a special snack for her brother, who is in second grade after returning from school after a tiring day. If the child agrees and asks to get raisins, which she loves, remind her that her brother is fond of cheese crackers and will be happy to hand it over with pride despite not being a fan herself. 

Inspire them to imagine

Active imagination that helps us to step into others’ shoes makes us compassionate. To practice empathy, pretend play is a useful tool. Ask your kid what you she should do if her doll fell and bumped her head. As they grow, ask them questions about more complicated scenarios like pointing out differences to them without being judgmental that allows them to form their own opinion. For example, you can ask them what it would be like to sleep outside when it is cold. It would allow them to reflect and react.

To ignite their imagination, ask them how they would feel to see a kitten stuck up on a tree but unable to climb down. Over time, the thought process of the child will get tuned to such thinking, and so also the child’s response.  Reading a book helps your child to connect with someone else’s life and experience that is entirely different from your own.  

Encourage kind habits

Illustrate the meaning of kindness to your child through acts of sharing, giving, volunteering, including, compromising, championing, supporting, comforting, noticing and listening which the child could use when helping a classmate with a math problem, an older person who needs a seat on the bus and a family member with a chore. The habits of kindness complement etiquette since gracious actions like thanking the school bus driver and saying please help cultivate kindness, which can make the world a happier place. Building a positive vibe around kindness is important than scolding the kids for committing inevitable mistakes. Teach your kids always to ask what I can do to add kindness to the situation. 

Kindness is not always easy

It is not easy to express kindness because it does not always flow out from you naturally despite having it in you, and this you must make your child understand. It might make once feel scary to stand up for a classmate who is not being treated right or is difficult to be generous to a sibling who is annoying you. Similarly, offering condolences to a grieving person would seem awkward as it can be hard to determine how to act with a differently-abled person, challenged physically or mentally. 

However, you can gently teach your kids always to remember how other people are feeling and then encourage them to take responsibility for the way they behave with others. Even if they screw up, they can apologize for the act to show kindness. Practicing to say kind things consistently is the only way to express kindness, even when it seems hard.

Focus on the Effects of kindness

In addition to teaching kindness and encouraging kids to practice it, they should help them notice how it feels to be kind. There are examples of kids receiving rewards for their kindness as experienced by a family when the server at a restaurant was so much touched with the polite behavior of the kid that he gave him free Munchkins. Kindness needs not always be altruistic, and there is nothing wrong with practicing it for the rewards besides making people feel good.

Tell your kids to notice when others are kind to them, which will then stoke gratitude. Kindness and gratitude are like two strands that entwine together and contribute to your child’s happiness. Kindness benefits both practitioners and recipients in numerous different ways. It leads to a ripple effect that keeps touching more and more people who feel good and would like to make others feel good.

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