The headlines in the newspapers these days are scary stuff, and when you’re a parent, the fear you feel from the horror stories you hear can be intense. You want your child to feel safe, not be terrified of the world around him.
While there’s not much you can do about other people’s behavior, you can help your child understand the value of kindness and the impact it can have on the world with a few simple steps.
Lead by example
Your child’s eyes are always watching and his little ears never miss a thing you say. You’re the center of his world, and he learns how to treat others by watching you.
While it’s always important to be kind, it’s doubly important when your actions are teaching someone else how to treat people.
Use nice words
Just telling him to say please and thank you isn’t enough. You need to use those words too for them to really resonate with him. When he helps you with a simple task, tell him thank you. When you ask him to do something, remember to say please. Before long, his manners will be firmly intact.
If you do something wrong, apologize
Sometimes it can be hard to be the bigger person and apologize, especially if you don’t feel you’ve done anything wrong. But swallowing your pride and saying sorry can be a great lesson for your child. He needs to know that being kind isn’t about being perfect. You can make mistakes, even hurt people, and still be kind. The key is owning up to your mistakes and fully taking responsibility for them.
Talk about feelings
Children need to understand why being kind is such a big deal. Even toddlers can grasp this lesson if you break it down for them by talking about their feelings on a level they understand. Toddlers quickly learn how to describe their feelings with simple words like happy, mad and sad. If something they do for you makes you happy and you tell them, they’ll begin to get why kindness is so important.
Praise his kind behavior
The key to this tip is to use it in moderation. Praise his big acts of kindness – the things he does that are really special, where he goes above and beyond to help another person. But don’t get carried away. Don’t let him think that every little act he does should be applause worthy. Pretty soon, he’ll care less about helping others than he does about getting his daily pat on the back.
Put him in a position to help others
Seeing people who can use a helping hand on a regular basis can remind your child to make kindness a priority and to be grateful for the life he has. Taking him to a nursing home where the elderly residents would love nothing more than a visit with a young child, or letting him pick out a bag of groceries for a food pantry will do wonders for his sense of community and involvement.
Shannon Serpette is a mother of two and an award-winning journalist and freelancer who lives in Illinois. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.