Please refer to part one, Modeling Empathy, of this two-part blog post.
The next logical step after empathy is kindness. What is kindness? It’s an attitude of empathy that leads to an action. You model kindness when you act in ways that express empathy. Kindness is a choice to do something or to say something that shows you care.
You can show kindness to your child by offering an alternative to help them overcome their anger at needing to clean up their toys: “After you calm down, you can help me set the table for dinner.” We learn to be kind by receiving kindness. When your child is experiencing a negative emotion, your kindness towards them will be keenly felt. You validate their worth when you show kindness despite a difficult interaction, and your child will learn compassion.
You can also encourage kindness by suggesting appropriate action towards others:
“When do you think you should give Sarah a turn to swing?”, or “Let’s help John pick up all those crayons!”
Try to create opportunities to practice showing kindness to others:
“How about we bring a couple of extra water bottles to the park for someone that doesn’t have one?”, or “I think it would be kind to help somebody today. Shall we look for someone who could use a hand while we are at the store?”
Older children may be encouraged to understand kindness by playing games like charades. Try discussing real or made-up scenarios and compare kind or unkind responses. Talk to your child about kind or unkind actions they may see on TV or read about in their books.
Kindness may also be expressed in words. Teach your children a language of kindness. Speak kindly to your children. Never use harsh words, and tell them how much you appreciate them. Demonstrate speaking kindly to others. Don’t allow your children to insult you or others. Remember that words are powerful, whether positive or negative.
Remember, you are your child’s first and most influential teacher. He or she will emulate your words and actions. When your child learns to identify with the feelings of others and practices kindness towards them, respect for the needs of others is a natural result. When you treat other people like they matter, your child will watch and learn!
If you have questions related to supporting your child’s social emotional development, please contact one of our pediatric social workers.
Laura Mauriello, MS, LCSW, DT