Although you probably enjoy hearing from others that their child is good at math, reading or sports, even better is hearing that your child has shown kindness or compassion to someone else. Every parent wants to know that their child was the one that helped stand up to a bully, made friends with the child who felt left out or had compassion on the person who lost the contest. While some children naturally have more empathetic temperaments, with positive parenting, you can teach your child to be more compassionate. Here are three ideas for building kindness in your preschooler:
Teach Your Child About Emotions
The first step in being kind is recognizing the emotions of others and knowing the words, facial expressions, and gestures that exhibit those emotions. Understanding the subtle differences between being irritated and angry are difficult for younger preschoolers, who tend to have emotions that swing to extremes like mad or happy. That is why it helps for parents to explain the differences in emotions and to help give children the words to describe what people are feeling. Secondly, parents can help their child understand the point of view of the person feeling that emotion and guide them into responses that are kind and compassionate. Here are some ideas:
- Talk with your child about their own emotions and the emotions of other family members using a variety of emotional words like shy, sad. surprised, lonely, tired, confused, angry, irritated and hurt.
- As you read books, talk about the emotions the characters are feeling with your child.
- Cut out pictures of people with faces showing different emotions and help your child name what the person is feeling.
- Make a game of looking at a video with the sound off and guessing the emotions of the characters.
- Talk with your child about the emotions of people you meet, like the upset sales clerk, or the shy friend. Help your child understand why a person feels that way.
Be a Model of Kindness
You've probably been stopped in your tracks when you've heard your child imitate the exact tone and words you've used. Children learn by example. Embrace the fact that their natural imitation of you gives you the opportunity to be a living example each day of the person you want them to be. Here are some ideas:
- Exhibit kindness in front of your child by thanking others, saying you are sorry, and offering to help, smiling at strangers and showing courtesy to other drivers.
- Notice and talk about the simple good deeds of others, like the person who gets something from a high shelf for someone in the grocery store, or the young woman helping an elderly man in a wheelchair.
- Tell your child stories on the news, in books, or in real life about people who respond compassionately to someone else in need.
- Have a dinnertime ritual when each person says something kind about each person at the table. Having guests or playmates over? Include them in your conversation.
Practice Kindness With Your Child
As Sara Schairer, who leads compassion education programs in schools notes, the first way to help your child practice kindness is to make sure that you treat their emotions seriously, no matter how rushed you feel. Then help them to show that same kindness to others by:
- Volunteering together at a non-profit organization to pick up litter, feed the homeless, help at an animal shelter or visit the elderly in a nursing home. Find opportunities at VolunteerMatch.org.
- Helping care for a family pet, or helping you foster a pet for a local animal shelter.
- Giving them a "compassion reminder" like a beautiful stone, bracelet or sticker that helps them remember to show kindness to others each day.
- Make a "kindness jar" with activities that you can do together like donating books to the library, making care bags for the homeless, pulling weeds for an elderly neighbor, or baking cookies for neighbors. Pull one to do together every week.
Creating a Kind World Begins With Preschoolers
If we want to create a world where bullying does not happen, we need to start by teaching children how to be kind, compassionate and stand up for those who are weaker. At Kids Konnect Preschool, teachers continually teach, model, and give children opportunities to practice kindness and compassion with one another. Parents can build on what their children learn in school to help their child learn how to take the lessons of kindness and apply them in daily life. Do you have a favorite book or activity that teaches kindness? Share with everyone in the comments.