Kindness for Kids: Being Kind to Yourself & Others | Slumberkins
For most caregivers, raising a kind child is one of our top priorities. And we’re not talking about teaching kids to say please and thank you, and I’m sorry because they know they should. We’re talking about raising kids who truly want to make the world a little brighter for other people, just because.
So, how do you teach kindness to kids?
It starts with helping your child learn that being kind isn’t just the right thing to do—it also brings more joy and contentment into our own lives. Let’s take a closer look at how to instill genuine kindness in our kids, along with learning to treat ourselves with the same gentle care we show toward others.
The Heart of Kindness
What does kindness truly look like? Why is it so crucial in our relationships? Being truly kind to others isn’t the same as being “nice.” It’s a heartfelt desire to show care and consideration for other beings—to make a positive impact without wanting something in return.
Being kind is also remarkably beneficial for our mental health and well-being. In fact, research has discovered that it’s actually more beneficial for the one performing the caring action than the one receiving the kindness.
Studies have found that when people show a small act of kindness or engage in kind behavior, a whole host of positive health outcomes occur:
- Increased levels of “happiness chemicals” such as serotonin and dopamine
- Increased levels of oxytocin (a hormone associated with feelings of security and connection)
- Decreased feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety
- Lowered blood pressure and improved heart health
- Decreased levels of cortisol (a hormone related to stress and negative health effects)
Next, let’s look at how to teach kindness to our younger kids in everyday life.
Teaching Kindness through Everyday Actions
Kindness is a natural part of human behavior. Most children begin to show kindness very early in their development. For example, toddlers as young as 2 will offer toys or treats to someone who seems upset.
As your child’s first teacher, you can do a lot to nurture that early instinct to be kind and also instill empathy in your kids from a young age:
- Role modeling kind behavior – Children learn best by watching the actions of adults around them. Try to include frequent, simple acts of kindness in your interactions with others by offering help, expressing gratitude, giving compliments, showing compassion, and so on. You can also use humor (as long as it’s in a kind way) and model this behavior at home. However, keep in mind that sometimes mean behavior can be masked in families as “jokes” or sarcasm, which may negatively affect children. As a parent, try to model kind humor that doesn’t poke fun or shame any members of the family.
- Narration of kind acts – Although young kids naturally develop feelings of kindness toward others, they don’t always know how to put them into action. You can help draw the connection between caring feelings and how to act on them by narrating kind acts: “You look sad. I’d like to give you a hug if that would help.” “Grandma is sick. I’m going to take her a batch of soup.”
- Learning how to be kind to yourself – Being compassionate towards yourself is a key part of teaching self-love to kids. Both kids and adults have inner critics, and it’s important to show your child how to respond to that inner voice in a healthy way. When you have an impulse to criticize yourself, try to model compassion instead: “I made a mistake, but that’s okay,” or “I don’t need to be perfect.
Empathy: The Foundation of Kindness
Empathy is the ability to imagine the feelings of others, even when we’re not sharing the same experience. Children who are more empathetic can build stronger relationships and be more successful at school, at work, and in their personal lives.
You can help encourage empathy in children by:
- Sharing stories – Whenever you read with your child, start a dialog about how the characters might be feeling. Ask open-ended questions that help your child consider different points of view about the story: “Why would Bigfoot have said that?” or “I wonder why Narwhal might be sad?”
- Role-playing – Play is one of the best ways for children to practice imagining how other people experience the world. As you engage in play scenarios with your child, suggest situations that allow them to explore different viewpoints: “I’ll be the baby, and I don’t want to go to sleep. Next time, you be the baby.”
Kindness in Play and Education
Aside from role-playing, there are other ways to encourage empathy and kindness through play. Here are a few kindness activities you might want to try:
Navigating Challenges in Learning Kindness
No one can be kind all the time. As you teach your child to treat themselves and others kindly, keep these tips in mind for dealing with challenges:
Kindness Beyond the Family
Naturally, your child’s first experiences with kindness will be with family members. But as they grow, start showing them that kindness should extend to the outside world and friends, students, and other adults.
- Get involved with the community – Animal rescues or local senior communities often have tasks young kids can help with, such as socializing kittens or reading a book with a senior.
- Encourage kindness in lots of settings – As the parent or caregiver, watch for moments to model kindness or perform a good deed wherever you go. Letting someone go in front of you in line, helping someone carry groceries to their car, paying for the next person in the drive-thru—opportunities for random acts of kindness are all around us.
Bring More Kindness into Your Child’s World With Slumberkins
As parents and caregivers, we can raise kids who see kindness as a way of life. Every act of kindness you model for your child, no matter how small, sows the seeds of a happier and healthier future.
At Slumberkins, we’ve made it our mission to help caregivers who are working to raise a generation of loving, kind kids.
That’s why each of our characters celebrates a different facet of emotional well-being and growth. No matter your child’s unique personality and needs, we have a special cuddly Kin ready to help them learn, love, and grow.
American Psychiatric Association. The mental health benefits of simple acts of kindness. https://www.psychiatry.org/news-room/apa-blogs/mental-health-benefits-simple-acts-of-kindness
European Journal of Developmental Psychology. Kindness: a perspective from developmental psychology. https://erinmillsconnects.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Malti-2020-Kindness-A-Perspective-from-Developmental-Psychology.pdf
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Happy to help? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of performing acts of kindness on the well-being of the actor. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103117303451?via%3Dihub