Kindness is a gift everyone can afford to give – even children. Educational psychologist Anel Annandale unpacks the psychology of kindness and offers five tips to encourage kindness in our children.
Create a culture of kindness
Kindness doubles when we share it – a ripple effect that transforms our community into a happier place.
Whether rich or poor, young, or old, the beauty of being kind is that anyone can do it. Teach your children to ask themselves daily: “How can I be kind today?”
Praise character; discipline behaviour
Teaching kindness gentle mould children into happier, empathetic, more likeable people.
When you praise a child for good behaviour, make it part of their character. For instance, you want to say something like: “You are a very kind person,” as opposed to “that was a kind thing to do.” Eventually, this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy and lead children to spread their kindness in the future.
On the other hand, when disciplining a child, focus on their behaviour rather than their character. Never accept rude behaviour, even if your child is going through difficult times.
Model the behaviour you want to see
We know that children are more likely to mimic our behaviours than listen to our advice. They do as we do and will learn to be either kind or unkind from us.
Also, remember to thank your children when they are kind to you. Connect with them by holding eye contact when they tell you a story. When you talk to them about their day, really listen to what they have to say.
Kindness = boundaries and discipline
The happiest children are those with set boundaries and discipline instilled by their caregivers.
Discipline is about teaching and guiding behaviour; it is not about punishment. It is a way to teach our children to cope better with life and be more regulated, better-adjusted members of society. Be sure to always set boundaries before disciplining a child.
Never discipline your child out of anger but rather with the intent to teach better ways of behaving. Keep the three “R’s” of discipline in mind: Remove, Reflect and Reconnect.
Destructive feelings are a normal part of growing up; being a strong role model and mentor will help them to navigate and manage big emotions.
Read more about raising kinder children online
Encourage random acts of kindness
Performing random acts of kindness helps children develop empathy and internalise moral principles. It creates a sense of pride in themselves and feelings of belonging and optimism.
There are many easy ways to incorporate random acts of kindness into our daily lives.
- Volunteer to clean up, whether you are clearing the table or sweeping an elderly neighbour’s driveway.
- Give a kind word or a sweet treat (I love Manhattan’s ‘Be Kind’ gums).
- Invite someone sitting on their own over to have lunch with you.
- Offer a smile or a compliment.
- Freeze water in empty bottles and hand them out to street vendors on hot days.
- Pick up litter, put back your trolley, and give up your seat to someone who needs it more.
- Let someone know that you’re thinking of them.
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen or animal shelter.
- Read to a younger child.
- Leave an encouraging comment on a post that you like.
“Encouraging kindness in children helps them understand the world from a broader viewpoint. It builds empathy and increases their frame of reference, encouraging them to cooperate with others to reach shared goals. In the bigger picture: teaching children to be kind eventually makes the world a better place,” concludes Annandale.
(supplied by Manhattan Sweets)