As parents, teachers, and members of a society, the best virtue we can teach our children is kindness. These children are the ones who will decide the future, and if we hope for some semblance of a utopia to ever be a part of the world, not only do we have to practice kindness ourselves, we have to pass it on to our generations.
And as of such, when given the choice to help people, we can hope that they will not hesitate. If we are hopeful for a better world, our children must learn to be kind.
But let’s be real, it’s hard even for grown-ups to be kind. When we feel like no one’s been there to help us, so many of us in turn don’t want to help others. So:
Why Should We and How
The good news? Kindness is a learnt trait, not innate. Just like with any other behavior, kindness can be learnt and taught through repetition. In children, the most dominant way of learning new mannerisms and behaviors is through copying the people around them. Which means that we, the people, have power. The power to change the world, to mold it into what we wish it had been for us resides with us, and with great power comes great responsibility, and we have a responsibility to teach by example.
In our brains, there are mirror neurons, which are basically there to wire us for imitation, and they are at their most active during our childhoods. When children see an action taking place, their brains are wired to respond as if they were performing the task themselves. Their brains, in turn, form new neural pathways, and thus, the basis for the behaviors that will follow them and stick with them throughout their lives are formed.
Our brains have the ability to change and to adapt to situations, and so, all of us have the ability to adopt new behaviors, which includes becoming kinder. Children’s brains are particularly adaptable, as they’ve had less time to solidify behaviors.
If you’re looking to play your part in molding the future, here’s how you can encourage kindness in kids.
#1 Practice Sending Kind Thoughts:
Kindness can be practiced in the simplest of forms. To practice mindfulness, people practice thinking kind words, and then say them out loud. Such as, “may they be happy” or “may they have a nice day”. This gets them into the habit of forming positive thoughts, and this same method can be used to practice kindness ourselves, and can be used to get kids into the habit of thinking kindly more often.
#2 Random Acts Of Kindness:
Make kindness a part of your day, and of your life. Getting coffee? Get some for your friend. See your friend struggling? Help them out before they can ask. Sense a friend might not be doing well? Become a source of happiness for them. Even something as simple as a smile can be a kindness.
#3 Kindness Stories:
Send your children into a world where kindness features prominently. Choose books for them where kindness appears as a theme, either in the background, or as the main aspect. Just make sure that kindness is an element of the story. You do not need to force kindness into your child, when they read these stories, the themes that they observe will sink into their subconscious which will mold their personalities. As a plus side, your child will be able to pile up on kind role models.
#4 Play With Compliments:
Though we may not know how to respond to them, compliments make us feel good. Researchers in Japan have found that the area of the brain activated when we receive a compliment is the same one that is activated when we receive money. Pay others compliments. Even if they don’t compliment you back, you can rest assured that you were a cause of happiness for someone.
#5 Empathy Charades:
Empathy requires putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to understand what they’re feeling and what they’re going through. Empathy charades involves observing images, and trying to guess what emotion the image is trying to portray.
#6 A Smile Can Do Immeasurable Good:
A study conducted in Sweden shows that when people looked at others who were smiling, their facial muscles twitched themselves into smiles. Play a game to make the others laugh to make smiling a common part of your kids’ lives, and show them that happiness is contagious. One single smile will cause another to smile, and they will pass it on.
Being kind is a dual edged manner. Not only does it give a reason of happiness to the receiver, but also to the give. It creates a sense of interconnectedness and helps us edge towards a better world than ours.