Most parents want the best for their kids, and make it their mission to raise children who are happy, healthy, and successful.
They also want to raise their kids to respect others and lend a hand where needed; in short, parents want to raise kind children.
However, it’s not easy for parents to shape their children’s character.
Fortunately, a team of Harvard-based psychologists have investigated what every caregiver can do to raise a caring, loving child.
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Researchers behind the Making Caring Common (MCC) project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education have made the following recommendations:
1. Explain the importance of helping other people
Tell your children why everyone should be kind to one another.
Explain that the world is a better place when we all treat one another well.
Make it clear that other people’s happiness is just as valuable as their own.
When your child has a chance to help someone else, encourage them to take it.
Use the news and events in your community as talking points when discussing principles such as justice, equality, and respect.
2. Show your children that you love and appreciate them
When you have a parent-child relationship based in love, your child is more likely to respect your opinions and views.
Be sure to tell them that you love them, and offer praise when they support others and make ethical decisions.
Emphasize that although academic achievement is worthwhile, being kind is a moral imperative.
3. Help your children understand their own emotions
Emotionally intelligent people tend to have better relationships with others.
Emotional intelligence is a set of skills that enables an individual to recognize and handle feelings in themselves and those around them.
Help your child label their emotions, and give them room to describe how they are feeling.
You can then talk about healthy coping skills, such as vigorous exercise to release anger, and setting aside time to relax with a good book or movie to relieve stress.
This teaches children to process their own feelings without taking them out on other people.
As they get older, you can introduce them to mindfulness and meditation practices.
4. Show your children the importance of empathy
Ak your children to adopt a new perspective, if only for a few moments, on world events.
For example, if you are watching the news and see a piece about people who have lost their homes in a natural disaster, encourage them to think about how those people might be feeling, and how everyone else could help them.
Encourage your child to listen to others, especially during arguments.
Tell them that even when we don’t agree with someone else, it’s best for everyone involved if we slow down and put ourselves in their shoes.
Advise them that reaching a compromise is a better outcome than “winning,” and that working for mutual gain is not a sign of weakness.
If your child expresses concern about a particular issue, such as animal cruelty or immigrant rights, help them take constructive action.
For instance, you could supervise a fundraising attempt, or help them spread positive messages on social media. Be sure to praise them for their positive action.
5. Always be a good role model
This is perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle.
Your children won’t take you seriously unless you actively put your principles into action. Take an honest look at your relationships and interpersonal skills.
Do you resolve conflicts in a constructive manner?
Do you treat others graciously, and with respect? If not, you cannot reasonably expect your child to do the same.
Model acts of service, and involve your children.
For example, you could set aside a day every few months to pick out unwanted toys and clothes that you can donate to a local charity.
Ideally, pick an organization in need of volunteers, and help out as a family on a monthly or even weekly basis. Not only will this model kind behavior, but it will also provide your children with happy memories for years to come.
Your actions will shape society for years to come
To solve the world’s most pressing problems, we need a new generation of change-makers.
As a parent, you are in a unique position; by raising your children to care about others, they will grow into adults who will make a positive difference to others.
Kindness is currently in short supply.
However, by nurturing empathy in children from an early age, we can make the world a better place.