Raising Children Who Care About Others
By Mikkie Mills
The world can be a harsh place these days. You have people committing unspeakable acts in schools, in malls, at concerts, and beyond. Sign on to any social media account, and you'll see people calling each other names and bullying each other with seemingly no conscience. As a parent, it's tough to think of raising children in a world that can be so mean, but what you do now may help shape the future and make a positive change. Now, more than ever, it's important to raise children who care for others.
- Don't shy away hardships other children face.
It is sometimes difficult not to hide your child away from the world or to keep him or her sheltered for as long as possible. Eventually, however, your child will learn that other children face hardships. They may see a child at school bullied or talk to a friend who didn't get to have a birthday party because their parents couldn't afford it. If they come to you to talk about these situations, it makes for a great opportunity to show your children that some people are more vulnerable than others. Talk to your child about how to stick up for and be kind to the child who was bullied or how to share with the child who has less than they do. Talk about the "why" behind each situation as well.
- Practice caring for others at home.
Caring for others is something that starts at home with parents, siblings, and anyone else who lives with you. As the leader of your household, it is important to set rules that promote a kind and caring environment. No name-calling, no gossiping, and consequences for rude behavior are all good places to start. It's also important to set an example by allowing your children to see you treat other people in the home with respect.
- Talk about the kind people in your community.
Police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, teachers — most of the time, these are the people in your community who spend their days helping others. If you are driving down the road and see a firetruck, talk to your child about what the men and women driving it do to save lives. If you go to the doctor's office, talk about how the doctors and nurses make people feel better. Provide them with examples of heroic people to look up to and exemplify.
- Let your kids help others often.
Practice makes perfect in almost all aspects of life, and that extends to being kind to others. The more you do it, the more natural it comes to you. The same can be said for your children. Allow them to practice at home, with neighbors and relatives, and even through organized events or charities. It can be something as simple as carrying the diaper bag for a younger sibling when you go shopping or helping you clean up the dishes after dinner. If you have an elderly neighbor who doesn't have much family, they can draw a picture to help brighten their day or bake cookies and take them over for a visit. You can even have your child donate toys or pick out items to take to a shelter or organization that takes care of children in need. The possibilities are endless.
- Be a role model yourself.
If your children see you being kind to others, they'll probably be more inclined to do the same. If you volunteer, take your kids along. If you send Christmas cards or thank you notes, have your children help you write them. Any time you do something nice for someone, talk to your child about why you're doing it and encourage them to help if they'd like to do so.
The world may seem unkind at the moment, but raising a child who is caring and compassionate is the first step every parent can take to changing it for the better. Simply being a good role model and encouraging caring behavior can go a long way towards raising a gentle and loving child who grows up to be a gentle and loving adult.