Teaching kids to be kind is possible. Well, let’s be honest, kids are born kind. It’s up to the adults in their lives to nurture this natural quality. And let’s be clear. Being kind is more than holding the door for someone (although I do love that act of kindness).

Our goal as parents and teachers should be to find a way to solidify those natural tendencies born in most of us.

Teaching kids to manage tough emotions and circumstances with a sense of ownership and purpose. So, the compassion and kindness within them flourish instead of harden.

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 be 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. This post includes a summary of my thoughts:  10 Ways to Teach Kindness

How can we help our children be kind?

How can we nurture and guide this quality?

How can we ensure “being good” and “being kind” are part of their spirit for a lifetime?

Teaching Kids to Be Kind

Understand Development

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.

Observe

You will come to 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 to your interactions and responses to that specific child. Intervening too soon can be detrimental.

Guide

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.

Related Read: Kindness Crafts for Preschoolers Your Kids Will Love

Self Discovery

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!

Model the Behavior

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 everyday 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.

How to Encourage Kindness

Related Read: How to Teach Kids to Be Kind in a Tough World

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.

Silence

Practice silence to help children with self-regulation and to become in tune with how their bodies feel.

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.

Provide Opportunities

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.

Be Concrete

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.

Best,
Marnie

Marnie Craycroft

Marnie hails from Maine where she spent summers buried in sand and winters buried in snow. She is the daughter of a nearly four decade veteran of the public school systems. Teaching has always been a part of her life. She founded Carrots Are Orange in 2010.

Carrots Are Orange is a Montessori learning and living website for parents and teachers.

Marnie graduated from Wesleyan University in 1999 with a BA in Economics. She spent nearly a decade working in investment management. In 2006, she earned her MA in business from the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.

Marnie moved to the west coast in 1999 and currently lives in Boulder with her husband and three sons. She is Montessori trained. Her work has been featured on Apartment Therapy, Buzzfeed, PBS Kids, BabyCenter, the Melissa & Doug blog, Huffington Post, and WhattoExpect.com. Besides writing, passions include running (usually after her three sons), photography, and outdoor adventures.

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