As a parent, it’s fun to dream about your child growing up to be the president of the United States, the star quarterback of your favorite football team, or an alumnus of your college or university. Yet, most of us will be thrilled if our children simply grow up to be good, caring people.
Raising compassionate children sounds simple enough; if you are caring, you hope that it will rub off on your little ones. But research indicates that while children may be wired for good, whether altruistic tendencies get nurtured as they grow up is largely dependent on their interactions with people like parents, teachers and friends.
Research shows that it is never too early to start nurturing good character in children, and there are many ways for parents to help! Below are a few ways to nurture compassion and empathy in the children in your life.
Modeling is an effective way to instill good character traits, including kindness and respect, in young children. Young children are constantly watching the adults in their lives for cues on how to behave and interact with others. In this case, actions often speak louder than words.
You can take modeling one step further by volunteering together. Your child will experience firsthand how good it feels to help others, and it will give you an opportunity to talk about caring and generosity. For ideas of how you can volunteer with your child, read how Primrose students across the country give back to their community.
Make it Routine
Your child’s daily routine is a great opportunity for her to practice concepts like caring and kindness. At home, consider making it a dinnertime ritual to share one caring gesture each family member did or received that day, or have each person go around the table and say something nice about a family member or friend. Also, integrate manners and kind words and actions into daily routines. Model manners at the dinner table, hold the door open for others, say please and thank you and encourage children to use sign language and/or say the same, and always speak kindly and respectfully to other family members.
Learning compassion can also extend into your child’s school day. At Primrose, we break down general concepts, such as compassion for others, in a way that is age-appropriate and understandable through books, songs, role playing and other parts of the daily classroom experience.
Read and Discuss
One of our favorite ways to introduce more abstract concepts like positive character traits at Primrose is through reading. To encourage kindness with your little one, consider reading some of the following books:
- I Love You, Little One by Nancy Tafuri (Ages 0-3)
- I Can Share by Karen Katz (Ages 0-3)
- When I Care About Others by Cornelia Maude Spelman (Ages 3+)
- Hands Are Not for Hitting by Martine Agassi (Ages 3+)
- A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams (Ages 3+)
While reading together, take the learning one step further by helping your child think critically about what’s happening in the book by asking open-ended questions. Examples include:
- How do you think that made the character feel?
- Was that a nice way to act or a mean way to act?
- Why do you think the character did that?
- How do you feel when people are nice to you?
Check out our parent resources for more tips on nurturing positive character traits, such as cooperation and gratitude, in your child.
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