As parents, we want to teach our children to be kind and good people. We hope that when they have a choice to help others, they will. We never want them to be cruel, intolerant, or prejudiced towards others.
But let’s face it. It’s not always easy to be kind, even for us. Even us as adult parents don’t always want to share their toys.
The good news is that kindness can be learned; just like any other behavior, it can be trained through repetition. Children learn new habits by copying what others are doing around them. This means we adults have an important opportunity and responsibility to teach by example.
Mirror Neurons Cells
Just to give you a little science behind this. We all have what is called “mirror neurons” cells in the brain that wire us for imitation. They are mainly active during our childhood. When children observe an action, their mind responds as if they are performing that activity. Their brains then form new neural pathways, and these create the basis for behaviors that stick with them throughout their lives.
The brains’ ability to adapt and change, allowing us to learn new behaviors, including becoming kinder. Children’s minds are particularly moldable, as they have less time to solidify long life habits.
So, if you want to teach your children to be kind in the world, here are some things you can do:
How to Teach Our Children to Be Kind
1. Send kind thoughts to others.
Practice with your children to send kind thoughts to others. Have them imagine a friend or someone they know, and send them kind thoughts, and say out loud, “May they be healthy. May they be happy, May they be safe.” This helps them create the habit of thinking kind thoughts.
2. Share stories of kindness.
Most children love stories. Stories are compelling and are a powerful way for children to learn without direct teaching. Choose books or tell then stories with kindness themes.
For younger children reading stories out loud invoke their imaginations. For older children, purchase stories that have kind role models.
3. Smile Often.
When people look at other people who are smiling, they find that they are more apt to smile involuntarily. Play the smile game with your children to show them how contagious smiling is. Teaching them this game will help them learn that smiling can spread the warmth of kindness to everyone around you. When you smile, they smile, and their smiles spread to others around them too.
4. Play the compliment game.
It feels good to receive a compliment. Think of all the times someone unexpectedly complimented you about something and how it made you feel. Researchers have discovered that there is an area in your brain called the striatum is activated when a person receives a compliment.
Grab a ball or some other kind of toy and begin tossing the ball back and forth with each other, giving a compliment as you throw it.
5. Practice random acts of kindness.
Let’s face it random acts of kindness can make anyone’s days a little brighter. It is even more fun to do ith when they don’t know who did it. Teach your children to perform acts of kindness for the fun of it. Whether it is letting them give a piece of candy or gum, opening a door, or even allowing them to give something to someone else just to be kind.
6. Try empathy charades
Having empathy for others requires putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and imagining how they feel. Teaching your children to act out different emotions or watching people and guessing what other people might be feeling around you.
7. Volunteer for good.
Helping people or animals by lending a helping hand is a powerful way to teach your children kindness. Involving your children in volunteer work shows them that it feels good to be helpful.
Whether you take small or big actions, help other people or help animals, there is always a way to lend a helping hand. Involving kids in volunteer work teaches them that it feels good to be helpful.
You can teach them by visiting a local retirement home, volunteering at a food shelter, or getting rid of toys they no longer use and make a donation to those that are in need.
There is no limit to what kindness can do for your children and others. Learning how to teach our children to be kind is one of the greatest gifts you can give to a child.
Being kind to others feels good. It helps take our attention off of our own troubles, and also creates a feeling of interconnectedness. Together, we can make the world a better place with acts of kindness, both big and small. Let’s make kindness the new cool.