Encouraging Kindness in Kids
As the creator of Operation Beautiful, kindness and positivity are my passion. Every day, I and fellow Operation Beautiful members write a little Post-It note and leave it in public places for strangers to find. The notes say positive, encouraging things like, “You are beautiful!” or “You are good enough just the way you are!” In the five years since I launched the site, people from all over the world have shared stories of the more than 20,000 notes they’ve posted in their neighborhoods. Although my son is very young -- 22 months -- I include him in the writing and posting of the notes because I want him to understand the importance of kindness beyond good manners and politeness.
Here are three other ways to encourage kind behavior in your child:
Set an Example
Your actions speak volumes. Look for opportunities to model kind behavior in front of your children. For example, you could add time to a stranger’s parking meter, make a casserole for another family at church, or volunteer. Kindness includes never talking badly about someone, so watch what you say about others in front of your child -- even if you think they aren’t listening!
While modern parents are often told to praise behavior, a study in Developmental Psychology suggests that attributing behavior to a personality characteristic is a more effective technique for encouraging moral behavior. The study proves that children are more likely to help when told “You are a great helper” instead of “You’re so good at helping.”
Likewise, children were less likely to cheat at a game when told, “Don’t be a cheater,” instead of “Please don’t cheat.” The reason? When told they are (or should not be) a certain way, children are more likely to assimilate the behavior into their future actions. And speaking of praise, it’s been found to be a more effective mode of reinforcement than physical rewards like toys or sweets.
Practice EmpathyTeach your child that everyone has a story. If a store clerk is rude to you, say out loud to your child, “Maybe she’s having a really bad day. I know that I feel extra grumpy when I’m having a rough morning.” Give dimension to those who are less fortunate; for example, if your child sees someone begging for change, you could start a conversation about how homeless people are often veterans having a hard time adjusting to home life after their service. When your child learns to see people through the lens of empathy, he’ll be less quick to judge and more likely