Child handing flower to adultWhile so much emphasis is placed on academic achievement, physical fitness, and language and music learning, there is another essential skill that parents must impart to their children. Kindness is essential to the good character of a growing child, and instilling it in your child will be rewarding both for him and for the world around him as he grows.

Model kindness. Think of opportunities you can seize in order to model empathy, kindness, and generosity for your children. If you volunteer, tell them about your experiences, or take them with you if your volunteer activity is age-appropriate. You can also explain why you’re donating money to charity, delivering meals to a neighborhood family with a newborn, or simply showing some kindness to a stranger in the grocery store by helping with their groceries or holding the door for them.

Acknowledge your child’s kindness. When your little one makes a special card for a friend or family member with a birthday, remember to tell him how much you appreciate his kindness. Try to catch your child in the act of kindness. When he helps a friend by sharing a toy at preschool or repairing Lego tower in need of care, talk to him later about the positive impact his ramifications have had on his friend. That positive reinforcement will stick with him the next time he is faced with a choice regarding how to act toward friends and family in need of thoughtfulness.

Emphasize manners. Manners may seem superficial, but they are actually the root of kind behavior. Simply saying “please”, “thank you”, and asking permission instead of making demands shows a respect for others. Children build on simple behaviors like these and expand on them to become even more thoughtful as they grow. Plus, good manners are contagious! When your child’s daycare friends hear him saying “please”, the good manners will spread!

Remember the golden rule. Even when your kids are unleashing their worst toddler and “threenager” moments upon you, act with kindness and respect toward them. This does not mean that you should coddle them, but simple acknowledge their feelings in the moment, discipline them firmly but without lashing out, and remind them afterward that your love never wavers.

Point out unkind behavior. If you see another child acting in a mean, hurtful, or disrespectful way, feel free to acknowledge it aloud to your child. Learning what it NOT appropriate is important for kids, partly because it builds their own sense of what kindness looks like, and because it may help them to avoid people who may be hurtful to them in the future.

How have you tried to instill kind and generous behavior in your children? Let us know what has helped you to encourage them in the comments section.