Our beloved Thanksgiving tradition, based on a story of sharing, offers inspirational lessons for kids in the value of kindness. Of course, we adults know kindness and sharing go hand in hand.
When parents encourage their kids to share, they strive to instill attitudes that last a lifetime. Even so, a study by Harvard psychologist Dr. Richard Weissbourd found that 80% of children believe their parents care less about whether they are kind to others, and more about their achievements.
Naturally, kids can excel – and be respectful and nice! Dr. Weissbourd and his staff offer five strategies for raising kinder, more ethical children:
1. Make Kindness a Priority. Children need to balance their needs with the needs of others. Parents should encourage them to honor their commitments, try to work out disagreements, and address others respectively, even when they are angry or tired.
2. Provide Opportunities to Practice. Pitching in around the house, helping a friend with homework, or sharing a favorite toy with a sibling are good ways to make kindness second nature. Express pride and thanks when you see them doing something kind.
3. Expand Their Circle of Concern. Most children care about their own circle of family and friends. Encourage them to develop concern for needy or vulnerable people in the wider world. Use a news story to talk about the hardships faced by others.
4. Be a Role Model. Children learn by watching the actions of adults. Community service is a great way to model kindness. Involve your kids in donating gently used toys and clothing. Talk about an ethical dilemma, such as what would they do if they saw a classmate bullied or crying.
5. Help Kids Learn to Manage Anger. The ability to be kind to others can be overwhelmed by anger, shame or envy. Children should learn that feelings are okay, but they must cope with them in productive ways. When your child is upset, ask him or her to pause, take a deep breath, exhale, and count to five. Practicing this exercise when they are calm can help them better control their emotions.
As Thanksgiving approaches, now is the perfect time to share the power of kindness with kids through words and deeds.
What better lesson could there be?
Acknowledgement: Barbara Pronin