Rudeness is fashionable. We see celebrities and politicians routinely calling each other out, tweeting hateful or spiteful messages, and in general behaving badly. This disturbs me and causes me to reflect on what affect this has on our young children. What is the result when our children are constantly exposed to a vulgar, mean spirited and negative culture? It is almost as if our society has made it cool to be rude and lame to be nice.
I feel strongly that parents need to stem this tide. It is our job, and our responsibility to the greater good to raise our children to be kind, thoughtful and empathetic. Sounds like a lofty expectation and responsibility...but it is possible. The very essence of kindness is the ability to think of others. Here are some simple ways to help your children grow in kindness and empathy.
- Teach the rule of leaving everything better or the same as you found it. For example, have your children put away their toys when they have finished playing with them. Take a plastic bag to the park and make a habit of grabbing any cups or bottles left lying around by others. At the end of a car ride, clean up the wrappers or cans/bottles that have accumulated.
- Expose your children to older people. Elderly people delight in watching and interacting with young children. Allow your children to spend time with their elderly relatives, and teach your children how to be respectful of older people and to lend a helping hand when in their presence. Older people appreciate having a seat at a gathering, having a door held for them, having items carried for them, or being walked in or out of a venue. These are all simple gestures that school age children can be taught to offer when in the presence of older individuals. You can do your part by modeling these behaviors and then as your children get older, expecting them to demonstrate these same kindnesses.
- Expose your children to babies and toddlers and preschoolers. Maybe you have them in your own family. But if you don't, make sure you spend time in the presence of younger neighbors, cousins, or friends. These experiences can help your children to understand how to be gentle and loving towards a younger person. Also, children benefit from feeling older and having more skills in the presence of a younger child--this can help grow self confidence in your child. In these busy times, the neighborhood gang of friends has all but disappeared, so it takes parental effort to seek out younger children to interact with and allow your older children these valuable experiences.
- Demand kindness in your own family. Don't allow your children to be routinely unkind to you or their siblings. Set the bar of behavior high. You will never regret this. Your children will grow into polite and loving individuals that will make you glow with pride.
- Shut down gossip and unkind language of any kind. Teach your children not to ever post, tweet, facebook or text anything that would hurt someone else's feelings. Use the golden rule as your guide. "Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you!"
- Model kindness. Children learn what they live.
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