As a parent, it’s fun to dream about your child growing up to be an Olympic athlete, a brilliant scientist or the president of the United States. But in reality, most of us just want our children to grow up to be kind, caring people.
Raising compassionate children sounds simple enough; if you are kind and caring, you hope that your little ones will turn out the same. However, research indicates that while children may be wired for good, whether their altruistic tendencies are nurtured as they grow up largely depends on their interactions with people like parents, teachers and friends.
It’s never too early to start nurturing good character in children, and there are many ways for parents to help. Below are a few ideas for nurturing 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. 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.
When you help a neighbor with her groceries or call a relative to check on his health, your child witnesses acts of kindness from a person they want to be like — you. Showing kindness to others, whether they’re friends and family or people you might not even particularly like, sets a strong example.
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 on how you can volunteer with your child, read how Primrose schools help teach the concept of “giving without expectation” and how even the youngest children put the lesson into action.
Make Kindness Routine
Your child’s daily routine is a great opportunity for them 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.
You can 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 do the same. Try to always speak kindly and respectfully to other family members.
Learning compassion can also extend into your child’s school day. At Primrose schools, our Balanced Learning® curriculum helps children learn important character traits such as kindness and how to care for others in ways that are 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 is through reading. To encourage kindness in your little one, consider reading some of the following books together:
- I Love You, Little One by Nancy Tafuri
- I Can Share by Karen Katz
- When I Care About Others by Cornelia Maude Spelman
- Hands Are Not for Hitting by Martine Agassi
- A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
While reading together, take the learning one step further by helping your child think critically about what’s happening in the book. Ask open-ended questions, such as:
- 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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