Instead of Teaching Your Child to “Be Nice”, Help Them Learn to “Be Kind”

two children hugging one of their parents

Instead of Teaching Your Child to “Be Nice”, Help Them Learn to “Be Kind”

Parents often tell their children to “be nice” when playing with others, but what does that really mean? Instead of encouraging your child to be nice, what if you taught them to be kind? Being “nice” includes basic social etiquette and being polite to others. Being “kind” takes niceness to the next level through engaging in deliberate, thoughtful actions for others. 

Young children are born with the capacity for prosocial behaviors. These are behaviors intended to help others, such as sharing, hugging and comforting others, showing empathy and more. Research with infants and toddlers suggests that young children demonstrate acts of kindness without expectations for any personal rewards. For example, infants and toddlers often share food or toys with other children or try to help another child who they deem is in apparent distress.  

Why are these skills important? Teaching your child prosocial skills, such as acts of kindness, has many lifelong benefits. Research suggests that children who have strong prosocial skills are happier, have more positive relationships with friends, are more successful in school and have less anxiety. In addition, prosocial behaviors, such as kindness, have ripple effects—one act of kindness can spur reciprocal acts of kindness throughout a group of children. 

Young children learn to be kind as they practice being kind, so regularly engaging in many different activities involving kindness is helpful. Here are some tips for how to practice with your child:  

  • Model kindness each day as you engage in daily tasks. Encourage your child to follow along and verbally acknowledge them when you notice they have done something kind. 
  • Read children’s books with characters who are kind and encourage your child to point out the acts of kindness. Ask your child when they last did a kind act like the characters in the book.  
  • Role play kindness-themed scenarios with your child using puppets, dolls, action figures, sock puppets or yourselves! 
  • “Live kindly” as a family by regularly engaging in acts of kindness (i.e., food drives, volunteering, taking care of a family member or friend). 
  • Talk about kindness (verbally label when you and your child are doing something kind). “That was kind of you to ____, or I want to go help my mother with her gardening today because that is a kind thing to do.” 
  • Encourage your child to help you plan some kindness activities for the month and add them to a shared family “kindness calendar”. 
  • Discuss emotions tied to kindness (How did the recipient of the kind act feel? How did you/your child feel after doing the act of kindness?) This will help your child build empathy skills.

How does the Balanced Learning(R) curriculum teach kindness? 

  • Opportunities to practice and recognize acts of kindness are built into the Primrose Schools Balanced Learning® curriculum. Kindness comes to life through our Primrose PromiseSM Giving Events that occur throughout the school year like Og’s Bountiful Books Drive, the Caring and Giving Food Drive and Spring Fling Fundraisers. Through these service learning events, children learn how to be kind to their community while also learning why it is important to give to others without expecting anything in return. In addition, each month children enjoy lessons from the Primrose Friends where they participate in kind acts and learn what it means to be kind by practicing important skills such as generosity, caring and respecting others.  

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