Empathy can be very hard to teach. Children are the center of their own universes. I have three beautiful children who sometimes struggle with being empathetic. As parents it is our job to teach them to be kind and respectful. If we skip these lessons, we fail our children.
1. Yes and No Vs Yeah or Naw: I was taught to say Yes or No, never Yeah or Naw. When asked a question, the proper response is Yes Mom, or No Mom. It means you took the time to politely address me and my question. It is also simple to do.
2. Mr. and Mrs. Never a first name: My parents would never allow me to call an adult by their first name. Not a coach, not a teacher, not even a family friend. Children are not peers to adults. My children know to call any adult by the proper surname. It shows you respect that person and you are deliberate with your choice.
3. Kind Words: Being selective with your words can make someones day, or break someones day. I have taught my children to think about their words before they share them with their friends or family members. No one wants to feel sad, and words can hurt.
4. Words From the Heart: Gifts are nice. Everyone loves to get a gift. My children are required to make a card when they give a gift. It requires them to take time and think about what they want to say to the person they are giving the gift to. It shows that they want to use their time to make something for someone else. In my opinion, that is the best gift.
5. Apologies are Required: When you are wrong the right thing to do is apologize. Adults make poor choices, so why are we shocked when children make poor choices? If I am in the wrong when speaking with my child, I make sure to apologize. Setting the record straight will teach them that an apology does not make you weak, it makes you wise.
6. Rules Reinforce Kindness: Rules are made to be followed. Sometimes they are broken, but when enforced, rules give stability and security. Children love structure. If your child feels safe, they will also feel loved. This will promote kindness.
7. Kind hands: Kids will play rough. It will happen. Teach your child that using kind, soft hands shows how much they care for their friends or their toys.
8. Take Care of Your Pet: We have a dog in our home. She is my best buddy. It is my oldest sons job to feed her and walk her when he gets home from school. Teaching a child to be kind to animals also promotes kindness towards others. Animals need to be taken care of, giving your child that responsibility will cultivate a very important learning opportunity.
9. Best Buddies: It is great for children to have good solid friendships. Everyday will not be golden, but by reinforcing kind behavior in their friendships, you will teach them that it is not only nice to have a good friend, but to also be a good friend.
10. Sticks and Stones: We all know the rhyme; Stick and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Being a writer, I know first hand that names can hurt. Teach your children that name calling is never a good choice. It doesn’t feel good to be called a name, so why is it OK to call someone a name? Have your child put themselves in the place of the child who has hurt feelings. Having them reflect on that felling is the best way to get them to emphasize.
Kindness and respect go hand in hand. It is our duty to teach our children right from wrong, respect, kindness, empathy, self worth and value, and one million other things. It is the hardest job on the planet, but if we do these things, the planet will be worth saving.