For many years, it has been thought that children are born to be altruistic.
The theory was that children quickly realize that being kind gets them what they want. They then understand the correlation between kindness and praise. Finally, they begin to recognize the signs of when others need help and enjoy the sense of reward that they get from helping.
However, a recent study by researchers at Stanford University has suggested that this may not be the case. They claim that, instead of being a natural instinct, kindness is formed by social and parental relationships.
So, where does this leave us? Whatever you believe, there is no doubt that a parent’s influence shapes their children’s attitudes. Here are seven simple things that you can do for your child to help them embrace a kinder outlook in life.
Be aware of your actions
You are your child’s ultimate role model, and the way you behave in front of them will shape their own lives more than you can know. You don’t notice the little habits they pick up from you because you see them every day. They will build up, and build up, until one day – bam! You will see yourself, warts and all, in your grown children.
So, think about how you react to your kids, and be aware that they are likely to imitate you in every way until it becomes their own way of reacting. If you want your child to stop snatching from other kids, don’t snatch the toy back off them. Talk them through why they should give it back instead – no matter how long it takes. Show that kindness wins out every time, and you will do a lot to help your children understand its importance.
Be part of a team
Teamwork is an essential part of being kind. Think about your local community and how it groups together to help out the less fortunate for a good example. You might have cooked a meal for local mom with a new baby, or got involved with a community event to raise money for a cause. The next time somebody needs help, why don’t you include your children, too? They will be delighted to help you in the kitchen, and would be happy to get involved with a yard sale.
Perhaps you could get them to go through their old toys and donate them to charity? The earlier you start, the longer you will have to teach your children about kindness and the rewards it brings.
Obviously, children don’t understand the impact that they have on the environment. It’s too huge a subject for even some adults to comprehend! However, you can get started with some elementary things. Encourage them to clear up after they have finished with a puzzle or set of toys, before they start playing with a new one. Point out litter on the streets, and let them help you pick it up and find a more suitable place for it.
It’s a small start, but it will help them learn about the importance of their environment. That sense of duty and responsibility will rub off on their interactions with people, too.
Make charity fun
It can be hard to talk to kids about the reasons why charity is necessary. The chances are that when you do get involved with something, the reason might be dark and scary. Especially to somebody who is still learning about their place in the world. The first way to avoid this is to keep things simple – kids understand about being sick, but they are unlikely to have a concept of disease in their minds.
The second way is to keep things upbeat and fun. Show them the positives of getting involved in charity – the fun people have, and the benefits it gives the recipient. Keep those spectacles rose tinted and your child will understand that positivity and kindness can make a difference.
Reward their kindness
One important thing to think about is rewarding kind behavior. Kids love to earn the respect of their parents and need that reward to help them keep on track. No matter how small a gesture they have made, be sure to shower them with compliments. It shows your children that those behaviors are something that you value, and it is something they will want to repeat again and again. Also, be aware that just because your child might do you a kind turn, that it doesn’t mean they do the same for others.
So, make more of an effort to compliment them on their kind interactions with others. Don’t forget that you are trying to raise a child that is kind to everyone, not just a mommy or daddy’s boy or girl.
Include their interests
Kids like being good at things, so why not encourage their talents by doing something for charity? It’s a great way to nurture their creativity, and it also helps them understand that what they do can make a difference. It can be anything – from baking a cherry pie to selling off some drawings for a charity. If they like sport, perhaps they could wear something like these breast cancer sweatbands while they are playing for their team. It will help them get used to the idea of explaining about charity and kindness to their friends.
Also, it would be amazing for them if their teammates started to embrace something similar – just because of their actions.
Give them chores
Nobody likes doing chores, least of all children, who have far better things to be doing with their time. However, the earlier you start to get them involved with pulling their weight at home, the sooner they will grasp the concept of helping others. Give them one job that they handle every day or week, and reward them with a star on a chore chart. There will be resistance (probably until they have long left home!) but, it’s a perfect way to get them bursting with pride every time they help you. And help, as we all know, is the foundation of kindness.
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