As a parent, you try your best to spend quality time with your kids every day. You read books with them to build up their language skills. Whenever you have the chance, you also make it a point to have short conversations with them, which gives you a glimpse of the things that are going through their minds.
But in the midst of all these, have you done everything you can to teach them to be kind and compassionate to others? Well, apparently not – according to the latest research by Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist.
Weissbourd also runs the Make Caring Common project which aims to help teach kids to be kind. Together with his team members, a study was conducted where 10,000 youths were asked to rank what was most important to them: achieving at a high level, happiness or caring for others.
Eighty per cent of the youths studied said that their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others. The subjects also agreed to the following statement: “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”
Based on the results of this study, Weissbourd and his team came up with the following conclusion:
Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood.
With that, the Make Caring Common project team came up with the following five tips to help parents raise children who are kind and compassionate:
1. Make caring a priority
During the early years, children will gradually learn how their actions and behaviour affect the people around them. They need to master the art of balancing their needs with the needs of others. This can involve simple acts such as passing the ball to a teammate during a ball game or standing up for a friend who is being bullied or wrongfully reprimanded.
Children also need to hear from parents that caring for others is a top priority. So do make sure that they address others with respect – even when they are tired, distracted or angry.
Remember to always emphasise the following phrase to them: “The most important thing is that you are kind.”
2. Let them put the acts of kindness and gratitude into practice
The saying “practice makes perfect” rings true when it comes to teaching kids to be kind and thankful. In fact, studies show that people who express gratitude regularly are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and happier as a whole.
Children need to “practice” caring for others and express their gratitude to those who have made a difference in their lives. This can involve simple everyday gestures such as helping with household chores at home.
Do remind them to say “thank you” whenever someone makes the effort to help them out along the way.
You can encourage your child to be kind and caring towards others by expanding their “circle of concern” and modelling empathy and compassion yourself. More on this on the next page.