(WTNH)— Every parent hopes their child grows to be a kind person — so what is the best way to teach children to be kind? Educational Consultant and Parenting Coach Chrissy Khachane says an important starting point when you think about how to teach kindness with young children is to base your interaction off of the research. Research tells us that abstract thinking does not begin to develop until about the age of five or six; however, we can help teach abstract concepts, such as kindness, to young children by modeling the behavior(s) and making the notion more concrete with tangible examples. In thinking about kindness we are looking at fostering friendly, generous, and considerate character traits. What does that mean for a young child?
- Being friendly is probably one of the most common character traits explored with young children. How often to do we remind our children to “be a good friend” when playing with siblings or other children? To make this concept more concrete with a young child consider the skills necessary to be a friend – good manners, sharing, and being inclusive to name a few. You can then find time to discuss, model, and reinforce these individual skills over time. As with any life-long skill, it is important to be consistent. Also, try recognizing the good with “caught you being good” rewards where you call out friendly behavior in various social situations.
- Young children are just learning how to understand the feelings of others and to see outside their own needs; therefore, when building an understanding of generosity it makes sense to start with a focus on sharing. Young children place tremendous value on personal items, which makes talking about toys an excellent place to start. Find occasion to talk about donating gently used toys or passing to others at times of the year when presents are given. The holiday season is always a great time to donate time as a family to a local soup kitchen or other form of charity; however, this is something that can really be done any time of year.
- Teaching our children how to be considerate requires an emphasis on good listening skills and modeling the language necessary to express one’s feelings. Children’s literature is a great way to help your child recognize feelings and open a conversation about the words used to describe an emotion or situation. Explore social situations such as including new friends in an activity or what it mean to respond when someone says they do not want to play a particular game. Discussing, and even roleplaying, how to listen and respect one another will go a long way when our children navigate the actual situation.
For more information about Chrissy, go to http://www.strongtots.com