Many parents ask, “How do I ensure my children will be kind?” We all want our children to be happy, well liked and good toward others. There are some basic things we can do that set a strong foundation for these pursuits and support our children’s social skills.

Act kindly yourself. Modeling is by far the best way to instill kind behavior in your children. Children love to imitate us, and if we act in a kind manner, they will too. Praise your children when they exhibit kindness, and explain why you thought what they did was a kind thing to do. It’ll become a habit.

When you see kindness in others, share your thoughts with your children. “That was so kind of Jane to share her snack with you at school.” When our children hear the praise we give others, they will want to exhibit the same behavior.

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Try not to be negative, and redirect your children when they act unkindly. For example, explain how the other person may feel, talk about what your children could have done differently and help your children apologize.

Play games where one person has to help or collaborate with another to win. Relay races, parachute games and family scavenger hunts are several good choices.

Read stories where the characters must make decisions about their behaviors. Talk about the consequences of both kind and not-so-kind reactions. Children learn through the stories by relating to the characters and the events. We have a few favorites that focus on kindness to share with your children:

  • If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson
  • Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss
  • The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton
  • The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
  • Possum’s Harvest Moon by Anne Hunter