“You are so weird. Nobody likes you.” Atul heard his daughter and sighed.
In that brief moment, he knew that he had to put in conscious effort to teach kindness to his daughter. Like all of us, Atul wanted his child to be a kind and considerate person.
Insults and taunts are common among children. The tricky part is that children know that they should not be mean to each other or anyone for that matter, but they do end up rudely commenting on others. That’s why, as adults, it is our responsibility to teach them kindness.
Help Children Understand Kindness
We often teach kindness to children without explaining to them what it means to be kind. You can sit with your child and create a chart – looks like, sounds like, feels like, etc. to help them understand different aspects of kindness. For example, kindness looks like – no fighting, sharing, giving; kindness sounds like – no mean words; kindness feels like – happy, fantastic, great. It will provide them with something to fall back on when they are confused or overwhelmed. Stick this chart in their bedroom where it is easily accessible.
Encourage Kindness Through Positive Attention
One of the best ways to encourage kindness is to reinforce it through positive attention. Recognize the smallest acts of kindness done by your child, such as bringing you a glass of water. Reward the action with a smile or a hug! Children crave parents’ attention, and if kind acts get them that, they are more likely to repeat them.
Model Kindness For Children
Children are keen observers. They may not always listen to you, but they do imitate you. You can start by being kind and respectful to your child and others around you. Talk to your child about why you practice kindness. Help children understand the impact kind actions have on others.
Teach Children How To Respond To Rudeness
Many times children are rude because they do not know how to respond to nasty behaviour. Teach them how to process the rudeness around them, instead of lashing out. For example, the attendant must have had a tough day. Maybe that’s why he was mean to us. Teach them not to take the rudeness around them personally and ask them to set an example. Children should know how to confront rudeness without being rude. They can say something like – “I get upset when you use mean words while talking to me. Could you explain it in kinder words?”
Practice Giving With Children
Like everything else, children get better at being kind with practice. There are different ways of doing this. Make a list of kind things your child could practice and ask them to perform one act every day, such as holding the door open. Set up opportunities for the children to practice kindness. These will help them understand that it is important to be kind even if that act of kindness goes unnoticed. It will reinforce kindness as a habit.
Encourage Children To Keep A Gratitude Journal
Ask your children to write down what they are thankful for every day in their gratitude journal. It will help them appreciate the abundance of kindness around them. Help them out initially and push them to focus on people and experiences instead of objects. Ask them to draw or scribble if they are unable to find words or if you have younger children who cannot write. Discuss this before dinner every day. It will allow you to imbibe kindness gently.
Being kind is not hard. It just requires a bit of thoughtfulness. Most children find it easy to be kind and compassionate. But there will be times when they struggle with being kind, during those times, it is our responsibility to steer them towards the right direction by having meaningful conversations. The only thing to remember is that kindness starts at home.
“Me-kha-la!” That happens at least once when she introduces herself to new people. She’s the only ‘Mekhala’ she knows, and she takes a bit of pride in that. She is a quintessential introvert. Mekhala loves tea but cannot make a good cup of tea and often ends up having coffee. She claims that she takes all adjectives as complements unless specified otherwise. Mekhala is an organizational psychologist and psychometrician. She was a class teacher of 36 adorable girls for two years, grade 2 & 3, as a part of Teach For India Fellowship. And has worked as an independent consultant for a couple of years.
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