Building Kindness in Young Children
Just by taking a look at your phone or TV, the circulating stories of hate and lack of respect can be overwhelming. As parents, grandparents, caregivers, and teachers, we have been gifted the opportunity to make change in the world by raising a generation of children who will grow up to be loving and kind above all else. Cultivating kindness and compassion in children starts at the youngest of ages by gently caring for and tending to your baby’s needs as they arise. Modeling respect and compassion as you go about your days will provide toddlers and preschoolers with the words and actions needed to be an empathetic and kind friend. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Speak kindly to everyone you meet. As you go about your day, model what kindness and positivity sounds like in the grocery store, on the playground, and when you are talking with your partner – either to them or about others.
Show toddlers what gentle touches look and feel like. For some children it is helpful to use consistent language such as, “We use gentle hands” and have her try again with gentle touches. Even putting your hand over hers to model is a great start!
- Talk about feelings…a lot! Using books to learn about emotions is a great tool, especially since your child is a neutral party.
- Discuss how the character might be feeling when his brother takes his toy and what the boys could do to solve their problem.
- Check yourself. Maintaining composure when your child is having a hard time can be tough, so brainstorm some things in advance that may help you stay calm. Maybe it’s walking away for a minute, counting to 10, or closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. Taking that time will help you model responding respectfully in an adverse situation and start the problem solving process on the right foot.
- Master the art of the apology. Everyone loses their patience at some point, so take the time to apologize to your child for losing your cool. Admitting when you’re wrong is hard even for adults, but it can be powerful for teaching children that everyone makes mistakes and how to move past them together.
By Meredith Bailey, Family and Community Outreach Specialist, Plant the Seed of Learning