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Kindness taught in children creates a better world


Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, December 15, 2023

Kindness is a fundamental virtue that shapes not only our character but also the society in which we live. Teaching kindness to children is not just about instilling good manners.

It is about nurturing empathy, compassion, and a sense of responsibility towards others.

Harvard Graduate School of Education Child and Family Psychologist Dr Richard Weissbourd has emphasised the importance of teaching children that “kindness is a core value, not just a nice-to-have.”

“Children should be raised with the understanding that kindness is an essential aspect of being a good person,” he said, citing his research, according to which children who value kindness highly are more likely to prioritise it in their lives.

Lead by Example

In his book, ‘The Giving Tree,’ American Poet and Writer Shel Silverstein illustrates the concept of selfless giving and kindness.

Children often learn by observing the behaviour of adults. To teach kindness, it is crucial to model kind behaviour in our interactions with others. Show them acts of kindness, whether it is helping a neighbour, being polite to a stranger, or showing empathy towards someone in need. Your actions speak louder than words.

Dr Christine Carter, Author and Sociologist, in her book “Raising Happiness,” points out that “kindness is contagious.” She encourages parents to model kindness by engaging in acts of kindness themselves.

“Children are more likely to be kind when they see kindness in action,” she said.

Encourage Empathy

American Psychologist and Author Daniel Goleman stresses the importance of empathy, saying, “Empathy begins with understanding life from another person’s perspective.”

Encourage your children to see the world through the eyes of others. Ask them how they think someone else might be feeling in a particular situation. Help them connect with the emotions and experiences of others, whether it is a friend, a family member, or even a fictional character in a book.

Books that teach Kindness

Children’s author R J Palacio, in her book “Wonder,” illustrates the power of kindness.

“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” Reading books that emphasise kindness and compassion can have a profound impact on children. Such stories can spark meaningful discussions about the importance of treating others with respect and empathy.

Practice Gratitude

Gratitude is closely linked to kindness. When children learn to appreciate what they have, they are more likely to extend kindness to others.

In her book ‘The Secret Garden,’ Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote, “At first, people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done.” Teach your children to appreciate the small joys in life and express gratitude for them. Encourage them to thank those who have helped or supported them.

Volunteer Together

Theologian and Philosopher Albert Schweitzer said, “The only ones among you who will be happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”

Volunteering as a family can be a powerful way to teach kindness. Whether it is helping at a local food bank, participating in a neighbourhood clean-up, or visiting elderly residents at a nursing home, involving children in acts of service fosters a sense of responsibility and empathy towards others.

Conflict Resolution

Conflict is a natural part of life, but how we handle it can either promote kindness or escalate negativity. In his book ‘Nonviolent Communication,’ American Psychologist Marshall Rosenberg said, “Speak your truth, and hear others.”

Teach your children effective communication skills, such as active listening and using ‘I’ statements to express feelings. Encourage them to resolve conflicts peacefully and empathetically, understanding that others may have different perspectives.

Random acts of kindness

American Author and Journalist Anne Herbert coined the phrase, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”

Encourage your children to perform random acts of kindness without expecting anything in return. It could be leaving an uplifting note for a friend, helping someone carry groceries, or simply holding the door open for a stranger. These small acts of kindness can have a ripple effect, inspiring others to do the same.

State University of New York Developmental Psychologist Dr Thomas Lickona believes that parents should “teach kindness by catching it.” He suggests that when parents notice their children being kind, they should praise and acknowledge the behaviour.

“This reinforces the idea that kindness is something valuable and worth doing,” he said.Bottom of Form

Promote Inclusivity

In her book ‘We Are All Wonders,’ Ms Palacio wrote, “You cannot blend in when you were born to stand out.”

Teach your children the value of inclusivity and acceptance. Encourage them to befriend those who may seem different or feel excluded. Emphasise that our differences make us unique and that showing kindness to everyone, regardless of their background or appearance, is essential.

Teaching kindness to children is about nurturing compassionate, empathetic, and responsible members of society.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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