Educate Your Child in the Art of Kindness

  • You've probably spotted those stickers on the car bumpers that boast "My child is an honor student!"  Maybe that's your car and you're one of those proud parents.  But where are the bumper stickers that say, "My daughter shared her sandwich with a classmate who forgot to bring a lunch" or "My son volunteers in a nursing home every weekend" or one that boasts, "My children comfort me when my spirits are low"?

    Lessons in generosity, compassion and selflessness can't be learned from a textbook.  There are no standardized tests to measure the breadth of one's love for another human being.  But these lessons are among the most important you can teach your children.  And the primary school years are the perfect time to cultivate a charitable spirt in kids, child development experts say, since children at this age are eager to help others.

    Performing kind deeds not only makes children feel useful, but also gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment.  And selfless sons and daughters grow up to become selfless citizens of the world.

    So while it's great to raise an honor student, raising a compassionate child could be the greatest honor of all.

    Here are a few lessons in the art of kindness:

    Lesson 1:  Be a model parent.  The best way to teach your child the virtues of kindness is through your own good example.  Child experts say children learn to enjoy doing good deeds for others when they observe parents and other role models engaging in unselfish behavior.

    Be that paradigm of generosity in your child's life.  Baby-sit for a friend who needs a break, take a pot of soup to a sick neighbor, serve your spouse breakfast in bed "just because."  Let your kids see you performing thoughtful gestures, grand and small.  And let them hear you say how wonderful you feel doing good deeds for others.

    Lesson 2:  Turn love into action.  Teach your children that they not only have a responsibility to the family, but to the world.  Participate in community service activities with your children, which shows them that giving extends beyond the circle of family and friends.  Help your kids organize a neighborhood cleanup, start a clothing drive for the needy or shovel snow -- free of charge -- for elderly neighbors.  Let them know that they shouldn't expect to receive praise or even a "thank you" for their good deeds, since kindness is its own reward.

    Lesson 3:  Give precious gifts.  The gift of encouragement, laughter, praise, kind words, bright smiles and heartfelt hugs can be as valuable as material offerings.  Show your children that the most precious gifts are often ones that people can't touch, but can feel.

    COPYRIGHT 2004 Johnson Publishing Co.
    COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group