We all know it is important for children to be kind in the classroom, at home, and in life. Learning this skill is a crucial part in the development of each child, however it can be difficult to know the best approach for teaching kindness and empathy to our children.
Qualities such as kindness and empathy are important to child development because they teach children what it means to be a good friend, how to relate to others, how to recognize the needs of others, and most importantly, the ‘why’ behind each of these qualities.
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Below are some tips and advice that you can follow to effectively teach your child to be a kind and caring person.
What Does It Mean to Be a Kind Person?
Being kind is about caring for others in an empathetic, considerate manner. Kindness is about living through the golden rule, that you treat others as you would want to be treated.
A kind person is also someone who recognizes when something is wrong and who takes action to stand up for others in order to make their community a better place. We call these people empathetic upstanders, and we take pride in helping our students embody the principle.
How to Teach Kindness and Empathy to Children
Below we offer four tactics you can use to teach your child to be a kind person.
1. Be a Role Model
It’s no secret that preschoolers are in a constant state of learning. Their environment, whether we realize it or not, can have a profound impact on their overall education and development. That’s why positive, strong role models are important for kids.
Oftentimes, superstar athletes, singers, or movie stars are considered role models. However, the most important, impactful role model for kids is within their own home and immediate environment.
We’ve all heard the quote “Be the change you want to see in the world,” and the same principle applies to being a strong role model. Kids look up to the adults in their lives—metaphorically and literally—and emulate their behavior. That is simply how they learn.
When it comes to being a strong role model for your child, ask yourself: Am I behaving in a way that I would want my child to act? Am I showing them the importance of kindness by being kind in my daily actions?
Children need to see adults being kind and empathetic in order to understand what this really looks like.
Anyone can become a strong role model by instilling the qualities of kindness, empathy, and honesty in their daily life and in the way they treat others.
2. Talk to your Children
One of the best ways to instill kindness in your child is by simply talking to them.
Talk to your children about the reasons why it is important to be kind and empathetic towards family, friends, and others. Talk with your children about how it makes them feel when they are kind and empathetic towards others. And talk with your children about how it makes them feel when someone is unkind towards them, so that they fully understand the impact that their behavior can have on others.
An excellent strategy to talking about kindness may include discussing real-life situations. Was there a situation at work or school where someone went out of their way to be kind to another person? How did that person react? What emotions were displayed before, during, and after that situation?
Ultimately, talking with your child builds a feeling of trust and encourages a habit of open communication that carries well beyond their youth and adolescence.
3. Highlight Real Opportunities to be Kind
Real-world, hands-on learning situations help kids better understand and apply lessons to everyday life. This holds true whether you are teaching a child how to read and write or whether you are teaching your child how to be a kind, upstanding citizen.
That’s why highlighting opportunities for your child to be kind in daily life are essential, simply because kids do not always understand when a situation warrants kind behavior.
Be sure to point out situations in which your children have the chance to be kind and empathetic because they may not recognize these opportunities on their own, as they are still learning.
Implementing an environment that reinforces and strengthens the qualities of kindness through real-world examples is critical to a child’s overall development into a caring and well-rounded person.
4. Use Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement refers to the idea that if you verbally notice when someone (like your child) is doing something positive, they will start to internalize their positive choices and qualities and will want to continue doing this positive action in the future. It’s an effective strategy for teaching your child many things, and is often embraced by parents trying to teach their children about rules, responsibilities, and chores.
Verbally noticing when your children are making positive choices helps them to understand the importance of behaving in a positive manner on a regular basis. They will need the positive reinforcement and recognition of times in which they were successful so that they can understand what this behavior should look, sound, and feel like.
Developing Smart and Empathetic Preschoolers
When it comes to developing kindness and empathy in your child, the proper education is essential to success. Enrolling your child in a preschool or elementary school that values and embraces kindness and empathy is an important way that you as a parent can ensure your child is practicing kindness on a daily basis.
At Trinity Episcopal School, the development of social and emotional skills is the cornerstone of a successful experience, as students are not just encouraged to be good scholars, but also to be good people.
We believe learning social and emotional skills is crucial for child development and the Preschool experience, and we spend a great deal of time using Responsive Classroom and the strategies listed above to help the children learn the importance of and how to be kind, empathetic, and so much more. At its core, Responsive Classroom is about implementing social and emotional skills to spread cognitive growth through social interaction on a regular, daily basis.
The Responsive Classroom approach emphasizes teaching children to take care of themselves, each other, and the classroom/school environment so that everyone can learn and be successful. Our classrooms are nurturing and respectful environments where students feel loved and supported in their learning. We spend the first six weeks of school setting up, modeling, reviewing, and practicing expectations, and we also revisit them as needed throughout the year.
Implementing this learning style not only showcases examples of kind behavior for preschoolers, but also instills a cognitive real-world understanding of what it means to be kind and empathetic in situations outside the classroom.