Raising children is an onerous undertaking, yet as intrinsic and fundamental to humans as breathing. But just like breathing, many people take it for granted and fail to teach the benefits of being kind: a quality, you would agree, indispensable to becoming a good person.
Kindness is in low supply these days as we witness what atrocities humans are capable of, so raising your kids to be, first and foremost, kind, is a major achievement for a parent.
“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.
Professors at Harvard have, luckily, identified several ways how to bring up your child/children to be and remain kind throughout their life.
Below are 5 things parents who raise kind children do.
1. BE THEIR ROLE MODEL
There’s no such thing as the perfect parent, or individual for that matter. But always bear in mind that the very first things your children will learn in their lives will come from you and this will have a lasting impact on their future self.
So when speaking of kindness, for your children to learn to be so, you yourself will have to fully understand and genuinely display that trait as you will be their only role model and someone they can look up to for years to come.
As a Harvard University study postulates, “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.”
2. TEACH YOUR CHILDREN USING EMPATHY
If we may pinpoint all the smaller qualities that constitute kindness, empathy will probably come as paramount. In small children, the line between kindness and cruelty can be tenuous as they are not yet able to control their raw emotions.
You can teach your kids to see the world through many different perspectives, but teaching them to look through the prism of empathy will always make them kinder.
“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
“They grow up so fast” is what we’re used to hearing from our parents and grandparents, and that goes for your children too.
Before you know it, they will have grown and will start interacting with other children and people, and being able to empathize and care for others will go a long way.
“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.
Teach your children that caring for others is almost as important as caring for themselves, but should they manage to learn to put others before themselves, they will probably have learned the single most important thing about being kind and good.
Because it is one thing to sympathize with others and another to put that into practice and show someone you actually care for them
4. HELP THEM PROCESS THEIR EMOTIONS
Part of the equation to becoming a kind person is to keep your emotions in line as not all of them are pleasant.
Even the kindest of persons can lose their temper every once in a while, but it is key that you don’t allow your emotions get the better of you.
So, the next time your kid is on the verge of going ballistic (which, by the way, can be totally understandable), they do not necessarily have to count to ten, but try to teach them to find a method to keep their emotions in check and they will be glad they did so later, that’s a promise.
Of course, one can still go berserk and be kind at the same time, but from the eye of the beholder that’s not something a kind person would do.
“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.
It is necessary for children to learn to feel unpleasant emotions, but also when to let them go and when to withhold them.
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
Children who are emotionally fragile should be consistently praised, but not idly. When your child does something good, something that most people will overlook or find trivial, you should be the one to acknowledge and appreciate it, speak highly of it no matter how inconsequential it may be.
It will mean the world to them and they’d know they are on the right track.
You and your spouse should also consistently praise one another as children are very perceptive and learn a great deal by observing others.