Teaching kindness may be more important now than it has ever been.
Every day we are confronted with new reasons to turn off the news: gun violence, assault, terrorism, climate change, bullying. We may be statistically safer than we’ve ever been, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. Watch the news, and the world can seem pretty mean and scary.
As parents, we want to keep our kids safe from the myriad dangers they face in the world. Different parents approach that differently, and that’s ok. One thing we can all do, though, is teach our kids to be kind.
What does teaching kindness have to do with keeping our kids safe?
Think about it. There are roughly 73 million children in the United States today. If even half those kids grow up knowing how to be kind to other people, it stands to reason that our society will be safer and more peaceful.
Everyone has the capacity for kindness, but did you know that we must actually teach kids how to be kind? That’s not the same thing as as simply showing them kindness (or worse, showing them the opposite).
So how do we do that? Child development experts have come up with many ways of teaching kindness to our kids (a few here, here and here). One thing they all agree on is that teaching kindness starts at home: we have to model it, explain it, and—like any other skill—give our kids opportunities to practice.
- Express to your child why you are holding the door for another person, letting someone go in front of you in traffic, or helping someone when their hands are full.
- Involve your child in caring for other living things, whether that’s younger siblings, family pets, or your household or neighborhood garden.
- Make sure that older children always address others respectfully, even when they’re tired, distracted, or angry.
If there’s ever a season that’s ripe for teaching kindness, it’s the holiday season. Sure, it’s easy to get caught in the hustle and bustle and frazzled with lists and to-do’s. But at its core, the holiday season is all about love and kindness. So this year, let’s all agree that, in addition to teaching our kids how to bake pies, decorate trees, and light candles, we will also remember to teach them how to be kind little humans.
What are some of the ways you teach your kids how to be kind?