Seven Tips for Raising Kind Kids Practice what you preach. On an individual level, kindness brings meaning and satisfaction to life and encourages positive relationships, says Dr. Jenkins. Kindness puts others before self, elevating the entire group and sharing a sense of responsibility for the community. So be a role model and treat your child and others with kindness. If the home environment is filled with kindness and kids are treated with kindness, they are more likely to show that to others. Modeling kindness every day is important, Dr. Jenkins adds. Kids are always listening and will notice your behavior. Talk about feelings more. Discuss feelings and kindness at the dinner table. Helping kids understand their own feelings will help them empathize with others. So, sit down with your family at dinner and go around the table asking what everyone did that day that helped others or showed kindness. Make sure everyone in the family shares a story, even you! Notice when your child is kind and notice kindness in the world. If you grow up in a home that not only models compassion and kindness to others, but this virtue is also highly praised, noticed and commented on, it shows that it is valued in the family and the community, says Dr. Bird. Show kindness to yourself. Give yourself grace when you make a mistake and don’t use derogatory messages toward yourself. Help your child understand that mistakes are part of life. Use positive self-talk in front of your child. Also, make sure to take time and make space for yourself. Give yourself time to reflect on your feelings and recharge. This is an element of kindness that is often overlooked (and sometimes difficult to do). Dr. Bird mentions the oxygen mask on the plane example. Just as you must put on your own oxygen mask before helping others, be kind to yourself first so that you can be kind to others. Create kindness opportunities intentionally. These can be simple activities that you create to contribute back to your community. Help a neighbor, walk a friend’s dog, deliver a meal to someone who is sick or do a beach cleanup. This can be a small gesture but has big reward and is a great opportunity for kids to give back. Kindness can be contagious! Ensure your expectations are age appropriate. Let’s be honest, toddlers don’t have much empathy. If a toddler hits, it can be hard for them to understand why that is not OK, Dr. Jenkins says. Toddlers haven’t mastered emotional self-regulation yet. To help them, you might ask a toddler how that person might have felt after getting hit. School-aged children are better at understanding how their actions might make someone else feel. Make it a holiday or new year tradition! Around the holidays, there is a lot of consumerism and gift- giving. To offset this, it’s a great time of year to start doing small acts of kindness that are not monetarily based and put you in the holiday and new year spirit. And don’t stop once 2023 rolls around—do acts of kindness year-round!
Raising Kind Kiddos Lead by example and create opportunities for kindness A s parents, we want so many things for our children. We want them to be healthy. We want them to learn, to make friends and to live a fulfilled life. To experience joy and choose happiness. And perhaps most of all for them to be kind. Kind to others, kind to animals, kind to the earth, and (yes!) kind to themselves. But why? Why is kindness important for our kids? Willough Jenkins, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Rady Children’s and inpatient medical director of the hospital’s Child Adolescent Psychiatry Services, and Anne Bird, MD, medical program director of Behavioral Health Integration at Rady Children’s, explain that kindness is both an important virtue for society AND gives us as individuals big emotional return. It makes us feel better and helps with mental health. In fact, says Dr. Bird, there is a distinct correlation between kindness and lower stress levels and higher oxytocin (the feel-good hormone), as well as improved self-esteem, better self-confidence and reduced negative feelings. But can you teach kindness? Is it a learned virtue, or are you born with it? It turns out if we want kind kiddos we must understand its importance and be intentional. Here, Drs. Jenkins and Bird share their top recommendations on teaching kindness to kids (and yourself).
10 HEALTHY KIDS MAGAZINE WINTER 2023
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