How can you teach your young child about kindness?

Being kind helps children learn empathy. Learn tips to help teach your young child about kindness.

The best way to teach our young children how to be kind is to model the behavior ourselves.
The best way to teach our young children how to be kind is to model the behavior ourselves.

Teaching young children about kindness and how to be kind helps to lay the foundation for them to learn what it is like to put the needs of others before their own. Kindness helps them understand how they can feel empathy towards others and provide help when others are in need. Teaching children how to be kind and perform acts of kindness helps them feel a strong sense of belonging and improves their self-esteem. Studies have shown there is a physical effect when we are kind that increases our feel-good endorphins, giving us a feeling of positive energy.

How can you teach your young children about kindness? Michigan State University Extension recommends these easy tips to try with your child:

  • Model kindness. The best way to teach our young children how to be kind or what being kind looks like is to model the behavior ourselves. Say “good morning” or “hello” to people you pass on the streets, open doors for others, give up your seat on the bus or train to a person who needs it more, pick up trash on the sidewalk. These may seem like little things, but young children observe our behaviors.
  • Talk about kindness. When you see your child being kind, name it. Say things like, “I saw how you gave your brother a hug when he was sad, that was kind of you,” and other statements that help point out how they were kind to someone else.
  • Perform acts of kindness. Young children may not be able to do this on their own, but they can participate in charity events, help pick up their toys, help rake leaves for a neighbor, draw pictures for local children’s hospitals or nursing homes, or other smaller acts like dropping a quarter in a meter about to expire. The point is they are giving back without expecting anything in return and they are helping people too.
  • Be kind with words. What you say and how you say it are important. Teach children to say “hello,” “goodbye,” “good morning,” “please” and “thank you,” but also focus on other kind statements, such as, “Nice to meet you,” “How is your day?” “Are you OK?” and “I am glad to see you.” Being kind with their spoken words is one way young children can help others feel better.

Here are some resources to help you teach kindness to your children:

  • Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has ideas of things you can do to be kind. It also has lesson plans for those who want to teach kindness in their classroom. There are ideas on how you can celebrate World Kindness Day on Nov. 13, 2016 and Random Acts of Kindness Week Feb. 12-18, 2017.
  • Bucket Fillers has ideas and resources on how you can be kind to others. There are also children’s books available to help teach the bucket filler concept.
  • Sesame Street’s Everyday Heroes. The familiar characters of Sesame Street help explain how kids can be everyday heroes through songs and videos. Kids can even download an “Everyday Hero” badge to wear and can join the “Everyday Heroes Club.”

Teaching young children to be kind will help them understand empathy and caring for others. For more ideas about activities and articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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