By: Marnie Craycroft of Carrots Are Orange
Are there Ways to Teach Kindness? I recently read Madeline Levine's book Teach Your Children Well. She poses readers the question: Would you rather your child was smart or good? The question provoked a lot of thought. I don't question or worry about the "smart" part. I have faith they will succeed. I do, however, worry about the "good" part.
How to Teach Kindness to Children
There are sensitive periods for social and emotional intelligence. Levine's Teach Your Children Well is a great place to start to get an idea about what is going on in a child's brain and how you can respond to that particular stage of development.
You will come get to truly know a child's personality through observation. Watch him with other people and as he journeys on his own. That way, you can cater your interactions and responses to that specific child. Intervening too soon can be detrimental.
Allow the child to lead his own learning. Guide the child as he explores the world at his own pace. Encourage questions. Ask questions. Point out how his behavior impacts others whether positive or negative.
Respect the Child
Don't be a dictator. A child being told what to do is less likely to "do" and to "embrace" that act.
Allow for the child to discover the joy of being kind. Like with reading, if you give the child space to develop and discover reading on his own, you will have a lifelong lover of reading. Recently, my 3.5 year old held a door for an elderly man. This man's face lit up when he saw my son helping him. He spoke to my son. Although my son was bashful, that interaction made an impact as he continues to bring it up in conversation. By the way, we learned his name is Bob and that he is 94 years old!
Seems simple, right? Not until I had children did I notice how impolite I was to my husband. Saying "thank you" and "please", as it turns out, was not a natural tendency for me. So, how would my child embrace being polite and kind if I could not live in such a way? Teach kindness by being kind in your every day life. My friend, Alissa's, 100 Ways to be Kind is a wonderful resource and starting point, especially on those more challenging days. She even offers a printable.
Create an Environment
Place books in your home that teach children mindfulness and kindness. Do yoga or meditation with children to help them center and be calm. Have a peace or quiet corner for a child to reflect or to resolve conflict.
Practice silence to help children with self regulation and to become in tune with their bodies feelings.
Talk about Reality
Expose children to the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are children in the world that go without every day. Forget about toys, these children go to bed hungry! My boys are only beginning to get that reality. They are 3.5 and 5 and should soon be capable of feeling empathy. Talk about these "moral" issues in the world they share with people who are suffering every day.
Along the same lines as exposure, do good together. Find family oriented service projects in your community. A child can practice kindness in these situations and develop empathy.
Children are concrete learners. They need to be hands on. The learning needs to be tangible. Something as simple as a Kindness Jar goes a long way.
Marnie began Carrots Are Orange in 2010 after the birth of her first son. Carrots Are Orange is a Montessori inspired learning and living blog for parents and educators. Her work has been featured on Apartment Therapy, PBS Kids, BabyCenter, the Melissa & Doug blog, and WhattoExpect.com.
Kinder by the Child Project
This unique series of personal stories will take a look at how we teach our children about kindness and why as parents we see the value in leading a life full of generosity and consideration.
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families and design ideas based on our adventures building a home from the ground up.