How to raise kind children

By admin
05 August 2014

Everyone likes to think their kids are the kindest, sweetest people. But is this really so and what are you doing to raise them as the kind, caring young people you want them to be?

Researchers at Harvard University in the US in a recent study found nearly 80 percent of youngsters in their study said their parents were more concerned that they should achieve and be happy than care for other people.

Richard Weissbourd, a psychologist who was part of the study, says if you want your children to be kind you must raise them that way. “Children aren’t born simply good or bad, and we should never give up on them. They need adults who’ll help them become caring, respectful and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood,” he says.

Tips for raising kind and caring children:

1         Make caring a priority. Parents tend to see their children’s happiness and achievements as more important than that they care for others. Yet it’s important your child learns from an early age that they can contribute to others’ happiness. Tell your children how important it is to care for others. Rather say, “What’s most important is that you’re kind” than “What’s most important is that you’re happy”.

2         Make it a rule to care for others. “Our No 1 rule in the house is to be kind,” Shawn Fink, founder of the Abundant Mama Project, writes on her blog. “Everything pretty much falls under that rule in life.” Also make sure your kids always address others in a respectful way. You can create opportunities for them daily to talk about what they were grateful for on that day.

3         Create opportunities for your children to practise caring and gratitude. As with most things in life it takes practise to learn how to be kind. Ask them to help a friend with their homework or feed the neighbours’ cat when they’re on holiday. Talk with your child about examples they may see on television of people who are kind and caring.

4         Set an example. “Children learn ethical values by watching the actions of adults they respect,” Weissbourd says. That means you have to practise honesty, fairness and kindness as a parent. Do something once a month for other people, even if it’s just to bake biscuits or volunteer at the community fête. Even better – involve your child. Also be prepared to acknowledge your mistakes and shortcomings to your children. You can mentor your child by discussing difficult situations the family encounters.

5         Broaden your child’s circle of concern. Most children care about their friends and families. Parents’ challenge is to teach their kids also to care for people beyond this circle, for example a new classmate, destitute people in their neighbourhood and people in another country experiencing hardships. It’s important for children to interact with people of different backgrounds so they can learn how it feels to be in another’s shoes. Help them to get a holiday job in which they’ll rub shoulders with people of other cultures or encourage them to stand up for a classmate who’s being bullied.

6         Four kind deeds. It’s not necessary to reward your child for every kindness – you can legitimately expect your children to help you around the house. “Everyday kindnesses are normal. That’s part of who we are,” Weissbourd explains. But reward unusual kind deeds such as working as a volunteer at the community market day. Show them you notice when they go out of their way to be kind.

7         Teach your child to say sorry. Lynne Arbuckle, head of Riverside College in Cape Town, says it’s difficult for anyone to make a sincere, heartfelt apology. “It comes from recognising that you have hurt someone else,” she explains. Ask your child how their behaviour would have made the other person feel, and ask them what they can do about it. “Kids need to learn that ‘sorry’ doesn’t erase what they did.”

-Shané Barnard


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