Parents are saddled with the difficult task of raising tiny humans. These tiny humans learn all kinds of things from their parents. Most importantly, though, children learn how to treat other people. Raising a child who is considered “kind” may seem easy, but many parents can tell you that it’s not always the case.
“Grades and athletic/artistic accomplishments matter, but most of us would agree raising kind kids matters more. If we spend our days drilling math facts and chauffeuring our kids to “enrichment activities,” it begs the question: What are we prioritizing most—and why,” adds Dr. Robin Berman.
Thankfully, Harvard psychologists have pinpointed the best ways to raise your child to be “kind”, and to retain that kindness throughout their lives.
Here Are 5 Things Parents Who Raise Kind Kids Do
1. Be their role model
Nobody is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes. However, being a parent means that your child is going to soak up information from you like a sponge. Especially during their formative years, children are going to be looking to you as a role model. To raise a child that is kind, it’s especially important to know how to be “kind” yourself.
According to a study by Harvard University, “Being a role model doesn’t mean that we need to be perfect or have all the answers. It means grappling with our flaws, acknowledging our mistakes, listening to our children and students, and connecting our values to their ways of understanding the world.”
Being honest with your child, especially when it comes to difficult emotions, is one of the best ways to be a good role model. Children will learn their values and how they interact with the world from their parents.
2. Teach your children using empathy
When you’re teaching your child how to interact with the world, it can be hard for you to imagine how they see things. Children have all the same kind of emotions and feelings that adults have. However, they’re not fully prepared to express them yet. When you teach your child by using empathy, you can show them how to care for other people.
Kind children know how to connect with other people on a personal level. That connection involves being able to feel what other people feel. Show them how by empathizing with them first. “Unfortunately, selfie culture is not helping our children grow their highest or happiest selves. Studies show that the more we connect to others, the happier we are. So we need to make sure we are spending more time looking out, rather than looking at our own selfies,” says Dr. Berman.
3. Make caring for others important
As humans, we often make caring for ourselves the most important thing. And sometimes, that’s what we need to do to get through life. However, making caring for others an important part of their life will teach your children how to reach out to other people.
“With guidance from adults and practice, young people can also develop the skills and courage to know when and how to intervene in situations when they and others are imperiled. They can become effective “upstanders” or “first responders.”,” states the study from Harvard University.
Show your children that caring for others is important to you, and it will also become important to them. You will no doubt raise a child that thinks of others before themselves and works hard to make sure that they’re being their best and kindest every day.
4. Help them process their emotions
Not all emotions are fun. Some emotions, like anger and frustration, can be difficult for children to understand. When children become upset, they need to be taught how to deal with those feelings. Children who aren’t taught tend to lash out physically – hitting, kicking, screaming. That kind of behavior doesn’t make for a “kind” child at all. Instead, Harvard psychologists say to focus on dealing with and processing emotions in a healthy manner.
“We need to teach children that all feelings are ok, but some ways of dealing with them are not helpful. Children need our help learning to cope with these feelings in productive ways,” add Harvard psychologists. Children need to learn that it’s okay to feel unpleasant emotions, but also how to handle them and let them go.
5. Praise one another consistently
“The power of mindful words can’t be overstated. Words can inflame or inspire. The diplomacy you teach will allow your kids to be heard in the future. It also feeds a gentler narrative in their head.” – Dr. Robin Berman
Praise and consistency are key to raising a child who is emotionally well-rounded. It’s also key to raising a child who is kind. Kindness comes from practice, and all practice requires consistency. When your child does something kind, make sure you recognize and acknowledge it. Praise them for their kindness, so that they know that they’re on the right track. Don’t just do it with your children, either!
Parents should praise one another for kindness, because your tiny humans are always listening. Get the rest of the adults in your child’s life to get on board, too. The more they see adults being kind, recognizing it, and reinforcing it with praise and thanks, the more they’ll learn.
Kindness is something that children have to learn – like manners, please and thank you, right and wrong, and empathy. Learning kindness becomes way easier when their parents are on board and know the right ways to instill kindness into their children. If you’re worried about how to bring your child up in a way that helps them be “kind”, here are the ways other parents did it. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, though! Just know how to correct them – because your child is always learning.