mum and child hugging

Of all the qualities we would like to nurture in our kids, kindness and compassion are ones of which most parents believe can play a vital role in raising happy children with strong self-esteem. Here are some easy things you can incorporate into daily life to help raise happy, confident and caring children!

1. Teach (and practice!) appreciation for others

Teaching your child to appreciate others from a young age will not only help them build empathy, it also sets a standard of the level of respect they should expect from others. Discourage your child from treating house guests, shop owners or restaurant staff as invisible, and guide their decision-making to take into account the feelings of his or her peers (e.g. if your child decides to quit a sports team, encourage them to think carefully about what this would mean for the rest of the group).

2. Focus on the real positive outcomes of good deeds

It’s great to praise your child for specific accomplishments and occasionally tell them how great they’re doing. However, child psychologist Richard Weissbourd notes that constant praise can lead to your child feeling constantly judged and even patronised by unearned praise. When your child does a thoughtless deed, focus more on discussing with them the real positive outcomes of their action. For example, if your child decides to donate their toys to others in need, talk about how happy they have made others and how they’ve contributed positively to the lives of those less fortunate. This, instead of praise, teaches your child to understand the joys of being kind, without being rewarded.

3. Give your child responsibility

A research conducted into assessing the moral aptitude of young children found that children aged between four and 13 who were asked to donate their Halloween candy to hospitalised children donated more when they were made to feel personally responsible. Researchers achieved this by saying things like, “I will be counting on you and you and you…I will put each of your names on the bag of candy I give tomorrow to the hospitalised children” rather than “please give them as many as you want by putting the candies in the box on the table.”

4. Keep a general positive attitude (not so easy sometimes!)

Of course this is difficult with the stress of modern life, but parents who express positive feelings generally, and use positive methods of discipline tend to raise children who are kinder and more compassionate towards others, according to sociologist Christine Carter. An example of positive discipline includes sitting down and discussing negative feelings with your child (e.g. “You broke your brother’s toy, was this because you were feeling hurt or angry?”), rather than hitting, yelling and threatening.

5. Expose them to need and injustice

Many parents feel very strongly about “protecting” their child from seeing pain and suffering of others and in the world. However, research shows that even very young children experience feeling of both compassion and gratitude when exposed or told about others’ suffering.

6. Model kindness yourself

If you’re reading this post right now, chances are you already strive to model kind and selfless behaviour! Kindness can be contagious and there are so many fun little projects you can do together as a family, such as hosting a garage sale to raise money for a worthy cause, or volunteering together at a local aged care facility, community garden or animal shelter.

ThinkKind resources are designed to introduce young children to social justice issues and problems in a gentle and productive way. Resources are carefully structured to encourage moral reasoning, independent and critical thinking and compassion.

Image sourced from the Courier Mail

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