Teaching Your Child Kindness

Believe it or not, kids are hardwired to be nice and considerate.  Experts say that the desire to help is innate and that their sense of doing good develops as they grow. At first, children like to help others because it helps them to get what they want. Then they start to do it because they get praise. Finally, they begin to anticipate the needs of others and it becomes rewarding to do nice things for people. Kids want to help, and as parents, it is our job to help nurture and guide a child's inclination to be nice and pitch in so that it becomes a lifelong habit.

Make helping a family affair. When a friend gets ill or a local family hits hard times, grown-ups know what to do. We send flowers, bake casseroles and pass the collection plate in church. Get your children involved in these projects. Ask them what it is that they want to do to help. Or have them arrange the bouquet, or collect cans of food. When you drive out to deliver the items, take your child along. They will get a first hand experience of how good it feels to help someone out.

Teach your children to see everything around them and ask them to think of people to share it with. During the spring, when your flowers are growing, invite your child to snip a few buds and take it to his teacher. Too many books or toys? Suggest he donate them to the library or homeless shelter.

Never litter. Even if you drop something by mistake, make it a point to pick it up. If you see an old newspaper or coffee cup on a bench, throw it away. It will feel good to take care of a mess you didn't make and were not "supposed" to pick up. Recycle too. Have your child collect and take empty cans and bottles to a recycling center.

Simply holding the door open for someone, or offering a helping hand goes along way. Teach your child to do these things as well. Have him make a card for a neighbor, just because. Or during the fall he can rake leaves (and not be expected to be paid). Kids need to understand that a certain amount of help is request and is required "Just because". Because they live under the same roof, are members of the family, and frankly, because it is the right thing to do. Keep a chore chart to track and reward the completion of their tasks.

Often times, it seems as if bad news is all around us. Point out the good things that are happening and the good people who are helping others. Show them newspaper articles, internet stories. This will help your child feel better about themselves and the world that they live in.

Sure you can get the wet towels up faster, sort the laundry better and pour juice without spilling it, but if you take over or critique too much, then it leaves your children feeling unwanted and unneeded and will prevent them from offering to help in the future.

Send your child out to meet the mail carrier on the sidewalk before he or she has to climb your steps or walk up the driveway. Offer a fellow grocery shopper help to the car with her bags. Let the person behind you with fewer items at the grocery store go ahead of you in line.

Compliment a stranger on her great sweater, say "good morning" to a neighbor, and thank the pizza delivery guy. Sometimes a simple acknowledgment or expression of appreciation is all the boost someone needs to get through the day. Help take down, or bring up your neighbor's garbage can or newspaper. Offer to shovel an elderly neighbor's walk in the snow.

By not only teaching your child kindness, but doing these things yourself as well, you will be well on your way to raising an empathetic and caring individual. Even if he still can't be nice to his sister.

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