Our world is becoming a less and less kind place. We have to work to teach kindness to kids but how do we go about it? What about empathy for others?
10 ways to teach kindness to kids
Kids will pick up on the natural way you model behavior. If they see you caring for others and being kind, they will grow up to care for others and be kind. Teaching empathy is being left out of a lot of parenting these days and we need to make sure we don’t miss it.
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Kids care about others
Children can be taught to care about other people’s feelings and to fill the world with kindness, it’s not as hard as you think. First off, don’t expect too much empathy from kids too early. From birth to 3, kids aren’t really capable of seeing the needs of others, but once they turn three, they should start to exhibit some signs of empathy for other people.
Around the ages of 4-6, they should really begin to develop feelings of empathy and the capacity to seek out other people’s needs. In the early years, children can still be kind and should be taught to do so.
We also need to be careful when teaching empathy, not to take it too far with feelings of guilt and making kids feel bad for not putting other people’s needs above their own. There should be a balance. Be careful not to overdo it.
I think all of us either are or know people who care for others and leave themselves out. I definitely don’t want to raise kids that harm themselves by giving too much of themselves either.
Setting an example
Children learn what they live. Treating them with kindness will help them learn to be kind. Showing them grace when they make mistakes helps them show grace to other people.
Find role models of kindness
Teach kindness to kids by teaching them about famous people who care. Can you think of a celebrity that has a big heart for other people? You will see your kids care if you teach them about people who care and make a difference in the world.
Think about people like Mr. Rogers, Martin Luther King, Robin Williams, Mother Theresa, Ashton Kutcher, and Maya Angelou. There are many ways to learn about them on the internet, in books, movies, and other things.
Let them see kindness
What are your kids watching? Do the tv shows they watch have caring influences? You can’t control everything they watch, but if you see a tv show, game or movie that your kids are watching that is teaching unkind things, try to divert them to another show. Studies show that kids imitate what they see on media.
Read books that teach kindness to kids
Read your kids children’s books about teaching kindness. How to Be a Friend, I Can Be Kind, Take Care, and the Hugging Tree are a few I can think of right now. Kids can learn a lot from books.
Help kids learn to be thoughtful
Help kids write thank you notes. Teach them to appreciate the kindness and gestures of others. If they are too young to write, you can write the words thank you on a card or pieces of paper and let them draw a picture on the note.
Tell them why you are writing it and that you want to let the person who was kind to them know they appreciated it.
Share your feelings with kids
Talk about your feelings with your kids. Let them talk about theirs. They may even need help describing them because finding those words isn’t always easy.
Kindness activities for kids
Teach kids about feelings through games and art. Kids can dance feelings like mad dancing and happy dancing. You can draw feelings or paint them with bold colors. You can make different facial expressions on paper plates and ask the kids to mimic them using the words to describe each feeling.
There are lots of ways to teach kids about feelings and teach kids to be kind through age-appropriate activities. Get creative.
Acts of kindness for kids
You can help teach kindness by helping kids bake cookies for a lonely neighbor. Let them draw pictures and pass them out at nursing homes.
Plant flowers with them and deliver them to grandparents or teachers. Showing them to care for other people’s feelings and how to do that will leave a lasting impression on them.
Recognize when kids are kind
When you see kids care for others, say a little something. Don’t make a big deal out of it and go overboard, but if you see a child being sad because they don’t have a toy and another child offers to give it to them, tell them you appreciate that they cared for their friend. It’s awesome how a little reinforcement will change what they think about in the future.
There is no better way to teach kids to care than to show them that the uniqueness of all of us is powerful and amazing. Ask kids what color they are and have them all hold their arms up to each other or to you. Talk about how pretty all those different colors are.
Talk about how everyone’s hair or eyes are different colors and how they are all special and lovely. Whatever differences you can find around you, let kids know how great those things are. If your friend is in a wheelchair, they may not be able to walk, but they can roll their chair and that’s pretty cool too.
This will help kids to already be looking at differences and opportunities to show empathy and to care for others with kindness as a good thing. Doing this in the younger years will help kids grow up to care about people genuinely and accept people for who they are.
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