By Christine Murray, PhD, LPC, LMFT, Director of the Healthy Relationships Initiative
Our Healthy Relationships Initiative (HRI) team is excited to partner with Triad Moms on Main on this blog series. In this series, we offer general guidance to relationship or family questions submitted by TMoM community members. If you’ve got a question to ask, please share it anonymously on the form at this web-site: https://goo.gl/forms/CLQxhyBzCgJdfJ7P2.
I feel overwhelmed by all of the violence and hatred in the news today. I want to teach my children to be kind, but it seems difficult to do that in today’s world. And, although they’re mostly very sweet and loving, my kids can be very mean at times, especially to each other. How do I help my children grow up to be kind, caring people? ~ Kindness Still Matters
Dear Kindness Matters,
I applaud you for wanting to instill positive values like kindness and caring for others in your children. Although it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed by much of what we see in the news these days, keep in mind that there are still many good, kind people in the world today. You’re not alone in your desire to raise children who know how to get along with others. Don’t despair when you see your children display mean behavior towards one another, and keep in mind that all children—even teenagers—are still learning how to get along with others, understand how to take the perspective of other people, and navigate relationships.
Instilling kindness in children is a long-term process. Of course, a major part of teaching your children to be kind is to be a role model of kindness yourself. The largest influence you’ll have on them is how they see you act, even more than anything you may say to them about the importance of being kind. So, first and foremost, work on showing kindness in all areas of your own life. Let them see you taking the extra time to be friendly and kind toward people close to you—such as your family, friends, and neighbors—but also to others you encounter as you go about your day. You’ll make an even bigger impact with this if they see you being kind to people who aren’t so kind to you!
In addition to practicing kindness as a role model for your children, you can be proactive about setting up teaching moments to promote kindness and empathy toward others. Some of the ways you can do this include the following:
~ Talk with your child about news stories that describe people showing kindness to others. The Good News Network is a good starting place for positive stories.
~ Involve your child in volunteer activities in the community that allow them to understand what it’s like for people to face difficult challenges in life. Check out Triad Moms on Main’s directory on Volunteering and Giving Directory for some kid-friendly ideas.
~ Read books with your child that show stories of kindness and respect.
~ Involve your child in positive social activities that align with your values, such as participating in a religious or spiritual community.
The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation also offers an extensive list of ideas for practicing kindness, and many of these are appropriate for kids. One important lesson you can teach your children is that kindness can be shown in both big and small ways. Kindness can be everything from saying hello to someone you pass on the street to going far out of your way to help someone who is going through a difficult time in life.
Keep in mind that nobody is 100% kind all the time! Chances are, even as an adult, you have some unkind moments from time to time. Let this reminder reassure you when you see your children showing unkind behavior, and be sure to reinforce your children’s positive behaviors when you see them. Over time, your children will learn the value of kindness toward others, especially as they see how it helps you have healthy relationships with others and have opportunities to practice it in their own lives.
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