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How to raise a kind and compassionate child

When you are a loving parent and a good role model, you will help your child grow up to be a good person who shows others kindness.

In the same way that many things take time and practice, kindness is something that kids learn. There are many things you can do to help your child become a kinder and gentler person.

Kindness is how empathy grows: Year on year

A child grows better at empathy, which is being able to understand another person’s feelings, over time.

A two-year-old might try to help a crying friend by giving her own pacifier or blanket to the person who is crying. While she doesn’t understand why her friend is crying, she thinks back to times when she was sad and knows what soothes her.

Three-year-olds are becoming more aware of other people, but they still have a hard time understanding how other people feel. They might enjoy knocking down someone else’s block tower and not understand why the child who built it is so angry.

By the time they’re four, kids can better understand when they’ve hurt someone and can sometimes apologise without being told. They also care a lot about how another child is hurt.

Many kids can share and take turns by the time they are five or six. All of them can talk about what kindness means and think of ways to help people.

Ways to encourage kindness

Stop telling your child that they are unkind: The first step to teaching your child the art of kindness is believing that your child is – and can be –  kind. If you treat your child like he always does bad things, soon he will do bad things. If, however, you think he wants to help and cares about other people’s needs, he will likely live up to those expectations.

Practice what you preach: What you do and say are very important. Let your child see you being kind, like taking an elderly neighbour to the store or saying a kind word to a friend.

Correct rudeness is a calm way: It’s important to know that your child’s sense of how different people are comes into play as they get older. In the same way that young children notice differences in animals and the colours of crayons, they also notice them in people. So, if your child says something that isn’t socially acceptable, it’s important to talk about it calmly. Ask them, “Why do you say that?”, and then explain why saying that is hurtful and unkind.

Pay attention to what your child learns from the media: Children are just as likely to act out kind things they see in movies and read about in books as they are to act out unkind things they see. Be aware of the shows and movies your child watches and be ready to talk about them. Also, try to get your kids to read books about caring and compassion.

Pay it forward: Show your child how to help people who need help. You can ask your child to donate a toy that he has outgrown to the annual toy drive, while you buy a set of blocks to give to someone else. As an extra, he can help you make cookies for a shelter and go with you to visit someone who is sick or in a care home.

Teach your child to be gentle with animals: The relationship your child builds between themselves and the animals around them, matters. When you are trying to teach animal kindness, the best way to do so is to teach your child that all creatures, great and small, can experience pain, sadness, and joy.

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