As parents, we want our children to grow up to be caring, empathetic people. Teaching children to take responsible action is a process that develops gradually over time—from preschool to high school. Check out Mighty Mommy's 7 tried and true ways to raise a caring child.
Tip #4: Recognize Kindness
When you watch your son offering a playmate some of his snack call attention to it by saying, "That was very kind of you to give her a few pieces of your orange wedges when you didn't have very many." Then add something like, "I'll bet she was a little envious that you brought a snack to the park when she didn't. How do you think it made your friend feel when you shared with her?"
I did this with my daughter last week when she passed on those lavender capri jeans. “Annie, it was really terrific that you let the little girl have the last pair of jeans when you wanted them so badly. How do you think she felt when she got to wear them to school for the first time?"
This plants the seeds of kindness for future opportunities.
Tip #6: Volunteer
You may worry that introducing kids to life's harsher realities will be too upsetting. But ironically, when you expose children to the sufferings of others, they end up feeling grateful for what they have and proud of being able to help someone.
Every Thanksgiving since my kids have been about age 5, we have worked with our church to create food baskets for families less fortunate and volunteered as a family at a local soup kitchen. I want them to see giving back as a responsibility - not an option. We’ve been doing this for almost 15 years now, and my oldest child (who now attends college in New York) advocates for helping hungry people amongst her classmates because she grew up learning that not all kids are well fed and cared for like she was.
Tip #7: Teach Caring Through Friendships
Some of the best opportunities to teach caring and compassion happen during every day play time:
Forbid name calling. Compassion starts with what's acceptable and what's not. For instance, during a play date between your son and another little boy, you overhear you son call his pal a "booger head." Sure, it's not a terribly offensive phrase and may cause you to chuckle, but rather than overlooking the incident, intervene immediately and let him know that being kind to others is the rule and hurtful words are not allowed. If you get involved right away, you are sending an important message that kindness trumps everything and that name calling is not going to happen.
Label kindness. When you catch your child offering a shovel to a friend in the sandbox, label her actions by saying "What a good friend you are," or "You're very thoughtful." Over time, she'll understand that being a helpful friend, sister, neighbor, and human being is something you value.
See also: Enjoy Your Child’s Play Dates
Be considerate. While it's tempting to hand out birthday party invitations at the playground instead of going to the trouble of mailing them, explain to your child that kids who see other children getting invitations but don't receive one themselves may feel hurt. Explain that while you can’t invite everyone, you can take measures to make sure those who are being excluded don’t feel badly. Make it clear that there is a discreet way to handle situations to ensure that others aren't hurt. When you take the time to explain why you are doing certain things, it will leave a lasting impression on your kids. And in the future, they will hopefully model themselves after you when faced with a similar situation.
See also: How to Stop Yelling at Your Kids
How do you teach your kids to be caring individuals? Share your thoughts in the comment section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy or post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. You can also connect with me on Twitter @MightyMommy or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.