How to be a good child

Adah Chung is a fact checker, writer, researcher, and occupational therapist.

How to be a good child

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The question of how to handle defiant children is something most parents have struggled with at one point or another. Defiance in children is a common problem, especially in toddlers and adolescents. It’s a normal part of a child’s development and can be expressed in behaviors such as talking back to or disobeying parents, teachers, and other adults.

Among school-age children, defiance will more likely take the form of arguing or not doing something you asked—or doing it very, very slowly—rather than a full-out tantrum (which is more likely to occur in younger children). Your child may be trying to exert control over a situation or declare their independence. They may be testing limits. Or they may be expressing dislike for a task like doing their chores.

When Defiance Isn’t What It Seems

In some cases, what appears to be defiance may simply be a child who’s dawdling because they are so focused on an activity. Understanding what’s behind your child’s behavior is an important part of addressing the problem.

Defiant behavior that persists for a prolonged period of time and interferes with a child’s performance at school and their relationships with family and friends can be a sign of something called oppositional defiant disorder, or ODD.  

In children who have ODD, defiance is characterized by behaviors, such as temper tantrums or aggression, that often seem inappropriate for a child’s age. Children who have ODD may also exhibit other problems such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD.   If you suspect that your child may have ODD, consult your child’s doctor or school counselor to get help and information.

How to Manage Defiance in Children

If your child’s defiance is not at the level of ODD, nor affected by some other underlying concern, there are ways to work on improving the behavior.

Set Expectations

Make sure that you’ve been clear enough about the rules and chores of the house, and that they are age-appropriate. A five- or six-year-old may find it overwhelming to be told to clean their room, and therefore refuse to do it. They may be able to do the job better if you break it down into smaller tasks, such as picking up toys off the floor and helping you put them away.

Get to the Root of the Behavior

Look for causes and triggers and try to keep track of your child’s defiance. Is there a pattern? Are there certain specific things they don’t like or want to do? Are they defiant when things are hectic or hurried? Once you investigate the cause, you can take steps to adjust situations so your child is less apt to oppose you.

Set your Child Up for Good Behavior

Try to avoid situations in which a child may be more likely to be defiant or exhibit other bad behavior. For instance, if you know your child tends to get cranky if he has too much on his plate, try not to schedule too many things after school or on the weekends. If your kid hates abrupt transitions, try to allow a bit of extra time when you go from one thing to another.

Treat Your Child As You’d Want to Be Treated

Just as grown-ups do, your normally well-behaved child can have an off day. They may be in a bad mood, or feeling overwhelmed and needing some downtime. Be firm about what your child must do, but speak to them in a loving and understanding manner. When you set a good example of how to express an opinion or disagree in a loving and respectful manner, your children will follow.

Take Advantage of Your Child’s Verbal Skills

Parents of school-age children have a distinct advantage over parents of toddlers when it comes to dealing with behavior such as defiance: They can talk it out. Calmly discuss with your child what they want, and then try to work out a solution that works for both of you.

Establish Absolute Ground Rules

Make sure your child knows your family rules. For instance, if talking in a disrespectful manner is an absolute no-no in your house, make it clear that there will be consequences for it—no compromises or second chances. Be sure to choose a consequence you’re willing to enforce, such as no TV for the rest of the day or doing an extra chore, so your child doesn’t ignore your requests and undermine your authority.

Compromise When You Can

Is your daughter insisting on wearing her pretty summery skirt on a cold fall day? Rather than engaging in a battle, try to come up with a compromise, such as asking her to wear tights or leggings with the skirt. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to give in when your child wants to exert control over something minor so that you can stay firm when it comes to the bigger stuff.

Discuss Options

Sometimes, a child may exhibit defiant behavior because they want more say in when or how they do things. One way to help children feel like they have more control is to give them choices.   For example, once you set up the parameters—“The toys must be put away”—work out with your child when they will do the task. For instance, toys can be put away any time before bed.

How to be a good child

From babyhood to the early teens, children love to hear a good story. Without the use of books, telling stories takes on a different dimension. It offers a new way of looking at stories and is reminiscent of the old radio days when families gathered around and listened together. So whether you read a story from a book or tell a story from memory, here are some tips on how to make storytelling time truly beneficial for your kids.

How, exactly, does storytelling benefit children? Here are some possible ways in which this ancient medium has a positive impact.

Language Skills

As young children listen to a storyteller, they’re hearing inflections in speech and words presented in a compelling and fascinating way. Older children can expand their vocabulary and learn skills that may serve them well if they decide to act in plays later.

Storytelling also presents certain literary devices in a demonstrative and memorable way. Children will see and hear the building of plot, characterization, climax, conflict, conclusion, etc. Perhaps rhyme or poetic prose will be used to tell the story, allowing children to hear the way the language sounds and how that can add to the story.

Memory

Without books or illustrations, children have to remember key points of the plot and character names. This is an excellent exercise in memorization skills and it also may help guide children when they wish to write a story of their own.

New Worlds

Storytelling opens children’s minds to other cultures and life philosophies; it develops the inner world of imagination and creative thinking. Children tap into their imaginative minds and provide their own imagery. Storytelling is also a way to bring history alive and inspire further exploration of historical events.

So What Should You Tell Stories About?

If you want to engage in storytelling for children, come up with your own story or re-tell an old one that you heard growing up. Your own children might love to hear stories about their babyhood or even about what it was like to be pregnant with them. Research your family background and find an interesting ancestor who lived an interesting life or experienced an unusual event. They will discover much about themselves this way, too.

If you’re telling stories to a group of kids who aren’t all your own, stories about life in the past, in other cultures, or animals make good stories. Telling things from a unique point of view will get children to think about what life is like for others, which is a good precursor for developing empathy.

Storytelling connects. It connects children with history, families, and each other.

How to be a good child

How to Get Started

Storytelling is an ancient form of communication. For millennia, people have passed on traditions, legends, and historic events through the telling of stories. True storytelling does not make use of books; like the ancients, it is intended to convey an idea simply through the spoken word.

Many are interested in exploring the art of storytelling but aren’t sure where to begin. If this interests you, here are some ideas on getting started.

1. Research the stories you love or have heard, such as folktales. Many of these stories were told and re-told many times before being written down and people still enjoy them today. Why? Look into what ties these stories together across generations. What makes them compelling? Why do children still enjoy these ancient stories? As you seek answers for these things, you can weave these universal elements into your storytelling.

2. Consider family stories. Talk to your relatives and, if you have the means, do some genealogical research. Nearly everyone has at least one interesting character or story in their past. As you find these fascinating personalities, you can create stories about them or tell their true stories.

You might have family stories that have been passed down, too, that you might not have considered for storytelling fodder. Did your grandmother used to make remarks about certain incidents? Maybe your dad likes to joke with your uncle about something funny that happened to them when they were kids? Keep your ears open!

3. Look to your own past. You can invent a character for your storytelling and use incidents and insights from your own past to create adventures for your characters. Or you can tell the story in the first person point of view (using “I”). Think about the lessons you’ve learned or funny, interesting things that have happened to you over the years. Turn these events into compelling stories.

4. Attend storytelling programs. This may be the most important thing you do as you embark on your own storytelling ventures. Local fairs and festivals may feature storytellers, or programs might be held at your local theater, library, or bookstore. Find out when storytelling is occurring in your community and make a point to attend. If possible, get to know the storytellers and make connections; then you can get some tips to become s better storyteller yourself.

You may find yourself amazed at the different styles of storytelling. Some people use props, others move around, and still others stay still. You will see that there is no “right” way to story-tell; the common thread is the ability to interest others and draw them into your world. How you do that will reflect your personality and unique experiences.

Recommended Books on Storytelling:

All parents want their children to do well in school. Find tips on how to help kids get better grades, and whether or not a reward system is a good idea.

All parents want their children to do well in school. Whether our own school experiences were positive, neutral, or negative, we want our children to succeed in school and life and often are willing to do anything to support that goal. A question many parents wonder about, though, is how much support we should give our children to earn good grades. Do we help with homework? Do we encourage good grades with rewards?

How to Help Kids Get Better Grades

  • Have high but realistic expectations. We should always hold high but realistic expectations for our children. Let your kids know that you think they are smart and capable and provide assistance as needed with homework and projects. But don’t go overboard with your expectations. Having high expectations is important, but having too high expectations can put unnecessary pressure on your child and that is not usually helpful.
  • Provide homework help.Creating homework space and offering help is a good thing. Sometimes all that is needed with homework help is to listen while your child thinks through a project. Showing your interest in and of itself is helpful. You can also ask open-ended questions (like “What do you think?”) to help the process along, but not give the answers. Asking open-ended questions works even after the content of your child’s homework exceeds what you remember from school.
  • Encouragement over praise. There has been a lot of discussion recently about praise vs. encouragement. Praise (“good job” and “well done”) is less helpful than descriptive phrases that offer encouragement (“These last few months you have been really consistent about doing your homework each night and it shows in these good grades.”). Specific encouragement as part of positive parenting is helpful because you are telling your child exactly what he did that was beneficial. He is more likely to remember your specific encouragement than a generic “good job.”
  • Refrain from rewards if your child is intrinsically motivated. Most of us want our children to be intrinsically motivated – in other words, we want our children to want to earn good grades and to work without verbal recognition or tangible rewards. By the time they start school, many children are intrinsically motivated and our job is to help them maintain this quality. A powerful way to encourage a child’s motivation is for parents to model working towards a goal, whether it be cleaning the kitchen or completing a challenging project at work. If a child is intrinsically motivated and he or she is offered tangible rewards for good grades, that child will likely come to rely on the rewards and may, in the future, only get good grades if a reward is present. So rewards are not needed if your child is intrinsically motivated and may even have a negative outcome.

Tips on Offering Tangible Rewards for Good Grades

Offering tangible rewards (like money, a toy, new boots, etc.) tend to make your child dependent on the reward to achieve good grades in the future. Your positive words can mean more. However, if you are already offering rewards or are trying to build your child’s motivation, here are a few things to consider:

  • You might try saying that this reward is only for this one time so that you don’t set a precedent for all good grades in the future. Your child may still say, “but last time, I got. ” but you know you are being true to your agreement.
  • Be specific about your expectations when it comes to rewarding good grades. “If you get three A’s, you will get. “
  • You must follow through on what you agreed to. If your child doesn’t earn the grades agreed to, she doesn’t get the reward.
  • Children may compare their reward to their friend’s reward (“I only got $1, but Emily’s mother gave her $5 for good grades.”). Be prepared with a response such as, “Different families make different choices about rewards for good grades.”

An alternative to tangible rewards for good grades is that your child could earn time with you to do an activity of your child’s choice. Often this is the best reward possible. The challenge here is that earning good grades shouldn’t be the only time your child gets individual time to do a special activity with you. This should happen on an ongoing basis.

So how do you decide what is best when it comes to encouraging good grades and doing well in school? A few things to remember are:

  • If your child is intrinsically motivated already, rewards are not necessary and may even have a negative impact.
  • Save tangible rewards only if needed or for special circumstances and be clear that this is a one-time practice to bring their grades up.
  • Consider offering special time with you as an alternative to a tangible reward.
  • Consistently offer encouragement for your child’s efforts. This should happen regularly.

Each family has to decide what works best for them with reward systems. Your decisions may be different than your neighbors and others in your extended family. Taking time to think through how you want to handle this area will be important in the event that questions from your child or others arise.

More on This Topic

  • School work is a big part of getting good grades. Learn how to help kids get better grades by making homework a positive experience for everyone.
  • What do you do when homework is too hard for the parents? Blogger Kris-Ann is struggling to help her son with Common Core math.
  • Dinner, activities, sports, showers. how do you make homework work with your busy family’s schedule?
  • Find tips on behavior charts and reward systems to make it a positive experience.
  • Find tips for creating good homework habits, offering help, and how to create a space for kids to do homework.
  • Weigh the pros and cons of children’s schedules and get tips for finding the right balance of sports and activities.

All Pro Dad

When I saw the movie Jaws for the first time, it made me afraid of being in ocean water. Well, I always was leery of it, but it definitely solidified my opinion. Even now, I never go in too far. Although the shark scenes were unnerving, they weren’t the ones that left the biggest impression on me. There is a wonderful moment between Sheriff Brody and his son at the dinner table.

The most powerful role models for children sit across from them at the dinner table. As his wife clears plates off of the table, Brody sits staring off into the distance, clearly deep in thought. He doesn’t notice his young son watching his every move from a foot away. When he takes a drink, his son takes a drink. When he folds his hands, his son folds his hands. Finally, he sees his son mirroring him. He starts to playfully make movements and faces for his son to copy–ending with a kiss. The most powerful role models for children sit across from them at the dinner table. It’s you. Are you wondering how to be a role model to your kids? Here are 10 ways.

1. Healthy Living

When we eat properly and exercise regularly, not only does it improve our own lives, but it sets the example for our children as well. Childhood obesity can lead to depression and disease. This is not to say a parent needs to go overboard, but every reputable expert will tell you that moderation is the key in diet as well as exercise. Keep yourself inside the healthy range for where you are in life.

2. Self-Improvement

Apply whatever cliché you choose here, but you certainly can teach old dogs new tricks. Self-improvement should always be on our minds. Try new experiences and broaden your horizons. This teaches our children to never stop growing. There’s always something new to learn in this life. Try to learn something new every day.

3. Serving/Volunteering

Make it a regular habit to get out in your community with your family and volunteer your time and talents. This is one of the best ways to build family unity, teamwork skills, and most of all, generous and serving hearts. Teach your kids to meet the needs of others.

4. Open Up Your Life

Do not hide who you are as a person to your children. Share your past experiences when it is appropriate: mistakes and victories. Show them that vulnerability is a virtue that comes from a position of strength. Take your children to work with you and let them see your daily life. Status doesn’t mean a thing, but your attitude and your demeanor mean the world.

5. Self-Control

Releasing our emotions, whatever they may be, is healthy and reduces stress. How we go about doing that in front of our children, however, has major consequences. As difficult as it can be, it is essential to practice self-control as much as possible in front of our children. Bite your tongue and control that temper. If need be, take it out in the gym or go for a long run.

6. Right Relationships

We have many important relationships and not all of them are going to be pleasant. Maybe there are issues with your parents, stepparents, brothers, sisters, or ex-wife. Forgive and give grace. Seek to be right in your relationships over being right. Make it as hard as possible for anyone to say anything bad about you. Be an initiator and always take personal responsibility first.

7. Respect and Listening

If you want to teach your kids how to be confident, it starts with showing them respect for who they are and listening to their own unique thoughts. This is a tough aspect of leadership, but the best leaders listen carefully and talk far less. Open your mind and your ears to what your children are telling you. They will, in turn, learn to do the same later in life.

8. Positive Attitude

There is plenty of negativity to be found in society today. Do not add to the daily chorus your child experiences. Instead, display a positive and reassuring attitude and optimism.

9. Goal Setting

Setting goals is important to give us a benchmark of where we are going and the progress we are making. Implementing and achieving those goals are of equal importance. When our kids see us moving along exactly according to plan, it shows them the importance of organization and self-discipline in their daily life. Help them come up with their own set of goals and praise them when the goals are met.

10. Walk the Talk

The single most important aspect of being your children’s role model is to always say what you mean and mean what you say. Walk the talk. Back up your words with visible and concrete action and be a man of integrity and value. Actions speak volumes. “Well done is better than well said.” – Benjamin Franklin

Huddle Up Question

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Who is your greatest role model?”

How to be a good child

How to be a good child

Earlier this year, I wrote about teaching empathy, and whether you are a parent who does so. The idea behind it is from Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist with the graduate school of education, who runs the Making Caring Common project, aimed to help teach kids to be kind.

I know, you’d think they are or that parents are teaching that themselves, right? Not so, according to a new study released by the group. (Chat with Weissbourd here.)

About 80 percent of the youth in the study said their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others. The interviewees were also three times more likely to agree that “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”

Weissbourd and his cohorts have come up with recommendations about how to raise children to become caring, respectful and responsible adults. Why is this important? Because if we want our children to be moral people, we have to, well, raise them that way.

“Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood,” the researchers write.

The five strategies to raise moral, caring children, according to Making Caring Common:

1. Make caring for others a priority

Why? Parents tend to prioritize their children’s happiness and achievements over their children’s concern for others. But children need to learn to balance their needs with the needs of others, whether it’s passing the ball to a teammate or deciding to stand up for friend who is being bullied.
How? Children need to hear from parents that caring for others is a top priority. A big part of that is holding children to high ethical expectations, such as honoring their commitments, even if it makes them unhappy. For example, before kids quit a sports team, band, or a friendship, we should ask them to consider their obligations to the group or the friend and encourage them to work out problems before quitting.
Try this
• Instead of saying to your kids: “The most important thing is that you’re happy,” say “The most important thing is that you’re kind.”
• Make sure that your older children always address others respectfully, even when they’re tired, distracted, or angry.
• Emphasize caring when you interact with other key adults in your children’s lives. For example, ask teachers whether your children are good community members at school.

2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude
Why? It’s never too late to become a good person, but it won’t happen on its own. Children need to practice caring for others and expressing gratitude for those who care for them and contribute to others’ lives. Studies show that people who are in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving—and they’re also more likely to be happy and healthy.
How? Learning to be caring is like learning to play a sport or an instrument. Daily repetition—whether it’s a helping a friend with homework, pitching in around the house, or having a classroom job—make caring second nature and develop and hone youth’s caregiving capacities. Learning gratitude similarly involves regularly practicing it.
Try this
• Don’t reward your child for every act of helpfulness, such as clearing the dinner table. We should expect our kids to help around the house, with siblings, and with neighbors and only reward uncommon acts of kindness.
• Talk to your child about caring and uncaring acts they see on television and about acts of justice and injustice they might witness or hear about in the news.
• Make gratitude a daily ritual at dinnertime, bedtime, in the car, or on the subway. Express thanks for those who contribute to us and others in large and small ways.

3. Expand your child’s circle of concern.
Why? Almost all children care about a small circle of their families and friends. Our challenge is help our children learn to care about someone outside that circle, such as the new kid in class, someone who doesn’t speak their language, the school custodian, or someone who lives in a distant country.
How? Children need to learn to zoom in, by listening closely and attending to those in their immediate circle, and to zoom out, by taking in the big picture and considering the many perspectives of the people they interact with daily, including those who are vulnerable. They also need to consider how their
decisions, such as quitting a sports team or a band, can ripple out and harm various members of their communities. Especially in our more global world, children need to develop concern for people who live in very different cultures and communities than their own.
Try this
• Make sure your children are friendly and grateful with all the people in their daily lives, such as a bus driver or a waitress.
• Encourage children to care for those who are vulnerable. Give children some simple ideas for stepping into the “caring and courage zone,” like comforting a classmate who was teased.
• Use a newspaper or TV story to encourage your child to think about hardships faced by children in another country.

4. Be a strong moral role model and mentor.
Why? Children learn ethical values by watching the actions of adults they respect. They also learn values by thinking through ethical dilemmas with adults, e.g. “Should I invite a new neighbor to my birthday party when my best friend doesn’t like her?”
How? Being a moral role model and mentor means that we need to practice honesty, fairness, and caring ourselves. But it doesn’t mean being perfect all the time. For our children to respect and trust us, we need to acknowledge our mistakes and flaws. We also need to respect children’s thinking and listen
to their perspectives, demonstrating to them how we want them to engage others.
Try this:
• Model caring for others by doing community service at least once a month. Even better, do this service with your child.
• Give your child an ethical dilemma at dinner or ask your child about dilemmas they’ve faced.

5. Guide children in managing destructive feelings
Why? Often the ability to care for others is overwhelmed by anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings.
How? We need to teach children that all feelings are okay, but some ways of dealing with them are not helpful. Children need our help learning to cope with these feelings in productive ways.
Try this
Here’s a simple way to teach your kids to calm down: ask your child to stop, take a deep breath through the nose and exhale through the mouth, and count to five. Practice when your child is calm. Then, when you see her getting upset, remind her about the steps and do them with her. After a while she’ll start to do it on her own so that she can express her feelings in a helpful and appropriate way.

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Like many things, kindness is a quality that children learn over time and through practice. Thankfully, there are many things you can do to encourage your child to be a kinder, gentler person. (For starters, you can share books that encourage kindness.) Research has found that the desire to help and comfort comes just as naturally to humans as being self-centered or hurtful. “It’s almost as though we’re born predisposed to be upset by other people’s pain,” says Alfie Kohn, author ofВ The Brighter Side of Human Nature: Altruism and Empathy in Everyday Life.

How Empathy GrowsВ
Empathy — the ability to understand another person’s feelings — develops over time. AВ 2-year-old may try to comfort a crying playmateВ by offering her own pacifier or blankie. While she is not able to understand why her friend is crying, she remembers times when she felt sad and knows what comforts her.В At 3, children are more aware of others, but they still have trouble relating to how others actually feel. They may delight, for example, in knocking down someone else’s block tower and not understand why the child who built it is so upset.

By age 4, children can better understand when they’ve hurt someoneВ and can sometimes offer an apology without being told. They are also quite empathetic about another child’s injuries.

By the time children are 5 or 6, they often can share more easilyВ and take turns. And they are able to discuss what it means to be kind and can brainstorm ideas for how they might help people.

13 Strategies for Encouraging Kindness
The following suggestions will help you to teach your child about being goodhearted and compassionate. But in the words of author/psychologist Dr. Julius Segal, nothing “will work in the absence of an indestructible link of caring between parent and child.” When you kiss your daughter’s boo-boos or read cozy bedtime stories to your son, you are giving your child the base that enables them to reach out to others.

1. Believe that your child is capable of being kind.В “If you treat your kid as if he’s always up to no good, soon he will be up to no good,” Kohn cautions. “But if you assume that he does want to help and is concerned about other people’s needs, he will tend to live up to those expectations.”

2. Model positive action.В What you do and say is critical; let your child catch you in the act of kindness, such as driving an elderly neighbor to the store or offering a comforting word to a friend. Most parents start this role-modeling from day one. “They talk while feeding their baby, saying, ‘a little bit of food for baby, a little bit of food for me,'” says Stacey York, a child development instructor. “This lays the foundation for a lifetime of give-and-take and openness with people.”

3. Treat your child with respect.В This can be as simple as alerting your child that playtime is almost over. “I always wince when I see parents suddenly decide it’s time to leave the playground and snatch their children away abruptly because it’s time to go home,” Kohn says. “That’s a disrespectful way to treat a human being of any size.” You might also point out successful conflict resolution through real-world experiences. At home, for example, you could say to your child, “Mommy and Daddy don’t always agree, but we listen to each other and treat each other with respect instead of putting each other down.”

4. Coach your child to pay attention to people’s facial expressions.В This is the first step in learning how to understand another’s perspective. “We are more likely to reach out to other people in need when we are able to imagine how the world looks from someone else’s point of view,” Kohn says.

5. Let your child know often that how they treat others matters to you greatly.В For example, a child might think it’s funny to see someone get splashed if a car drives by and hits a puddle. You can point out, “That lady is not laughing at what happened. Look at her face. She looks sad. Her clothes are dirty and wet now.”

6. Don’t let rudeness pass.В You might say, “Wow, that cashier must have had a really bad day to talk in such a mean voice to us at the supermarket. What do you think?” This teaches your child that when someone is nasty to you, you don’t have to be mean in response.

7. Acknowledge kindness.В Be sure to show your child that you notice when someone does something nice. For example, if someone slows down to let you exit a parking lot at a busy intersection, say, “It was really nice of that driver to let me out.” Likewise if your own child treats someone nicely, be sure to acknowledge and praise her effort.В

8. Understand that your child’s perception of differences in others comes into play.В Young children notice differences in people, just as they notice them in animals and colors of crayons, so assume the best. If your child says something socially inappropriate, it’s important to explore the comment calmly. First ask, “Why do you say that?” Then you can correct the misunderstanding by more fully explaining the situation.

9. Be sensitive to messages that your child picks up from the media.В Children are just as likely to imitate kind actions they see in movies and read about in books as they are to act out other types of scenarios. Be aware of the programs and movies your child watches and be available to talk about what they see. Also, encourage reading books that focus on caring and compassion.В

10. Explain that calling someone names or excluding him from play can be as hurtful as hitting.В If you hear your child calling someone a “poo-poo head” in the sandbox, go right into problem-solving mode with both children. Point out how the child who was called a name is upset: “Can you see the tears on his face?” Recognize that the real problem may be that the name-caller wants the giant sand bucket. Ask, “If you want something, what’s another way you can get it without hurting somebody else?” It’s also important to make sure the child who has been called the name isn’t feeling victimized, and encourage your child to apologize.В

11. Avoid setting up competition within your family.В If you say, “Let’s see who can clean up the fastest,” you risk setting your kids up as rivals. “When children are pitted against one another in an effort to win at anything,” Kohn says, “they learn that other people are potential obstacles to their success.” Instead, you could encourage them to work together to get the job done and praise them for their group effort.

12. Show your child how to help people in need.В You can encourage your child to donate a toy he has outgrown to the annual toy drive, while you buy a set of blocks to give away. He can also help you make cookies for a shelter and come with you when you visit someone in the hospital or nursing home.

13. Be patient with your little one. Kindness and compassion are learned and life presents challenging situations even to adults. Being a loving parent and a great role model will go a long way toward raising a wonderful, tolerant human being.

Like many things, kindness is a quality that children learn over time and through practice. Thankfully, there are many things you can do to encourage your child to be a kinder, gentler person. (For starters, you can share books that encourage kindness.) Research has found that the desire to help and comfort comes just as naturally to humans as being self-centered or hurtful. “It’s almost as though we’re born predisposed to be upset by other people’s pain,” says Alfie Kohn, author ofВ The Brighter Side of Human Nature: Altruism and Empathy in Everyday Life.

How Empathy GrowsВ
Empathy — the ability to understand another person’s feelings — develops over time. AВ 2-year-old may try to comfort a crying playmateВ by offering her own pacifier or blankie. While she is not able to understand why her friend is crying, she remembers times when she felt sad and knows what comforts her.В At 3, children are more aware of others, but they still have trouble relating to how others actually feel. They may delight, for example, in knocking down someone else’s block tower and not understand why the child who built it is so upset.

By age 4, children can better understand when they’ve hurt someoneВ and can sometimes offer an apology without being told. They are also quite empathetic about another child’s injuries.

By the time children are 5 or 6, they often can share more easilyВ and take turns. And they are able to discuss what it means to be kind and can brainstorm ideas for how they might help people.

13 Strategies for Encouraging Kindness
The following suggestions will help you to teach your child about being goodhearted and compassionate. But in the words of author/psychologist Dr. Julius Segal, nothing “will work in the absence of an indestructible link of caring between parent and child.” When you kiss your daughter’s boo-boos or read cozy bedtime stories to your son, you are giving your child the base that enables them to reach out to others.

1. Believe that your child is capable of being kind.В “If you treat your kid as if he’s always up to no good, soon he will be up to no good,” Kohn cautions. “But if you assume that he does want to help and is concerned about other people’s needs, he will tend to live up to those expectations.”

2. Model positive action.В What you do and say is critical; let your child catch you in the act of kindness, such as driving an elderly neighbor to the store or offering a comforting word to a friend. Most parents start this role-modeling from day one. “They talk while feeding their baby, saying, ‘a little bit of food for baby, a little bit of food for me,'” says Stacey York, a child development instructor. “This lays the foundation for a lifetime of give-and-take and openness with people.”

3. Treat your child with respect.В This can be as simple as alerting your child that playtime is almost over. “I always wince when I see parents suddenly decide it’s time to leave the playground and snatch their children away abruptly because it’s time to go home,” Kohn says. “That’s a disrespectful way to treat a human being of any size.” You might also point out successful conflict resolution through real-world experiences. At home, for example, you could say to your child, “Mommy and Daddy don’t always agree, but we listen to each other and treat each other with respect instead of putting each other down.”

4. Coach your child to pay attention to people’s facial expressions.В This is the first step in learning how to understand another’s perspective. “We are more likely to reach out to other people in need when we are able to imagine how the world looks from someone else’s point of view,” Kohn says.

5. Let your child know often that how they treat others matters to you greatly.В For example, a child might think it’s funny to see someone get splashed if a car drives by and hits a puddle. You can point out, “That lady is not laughing at what happened. Look at her face. She looks sad. Her clothes are dirty and wet now.”

6. Don’t let rudeness pass.В You might say, “Wow, that cashier must have had a really bad day to talk in such a mean voice to us at the supermarket. What do you think?” This teaches your child that when someone is nasty to you, you don’t have to be mean in response.

7. Acknowledge kindness.В Be sure to show your child that you notice when someone does something nice. For example, if someone slows down to let you exit a parking lot at a busy intersection, say, “It was really nice of that driver to let me out.” Likewise if your own child treats someone nicely, be sure to acknowledge and praise her effort.В

8. Understand that your child’s perception of differences in others comes into play.В Young children notice differences in people, just as they notice them in animals and colors of crayons, so assume the best. If your child says something socially inappropriate, it’s important to explore the comment calmly. First ask, “Why do you say that?” Then you can correct the misunderstanding by more fully explaining the situation.

9. Be sensitive to messages that your child picks up from the media.В Children are just as likely to imitate kind actions they see in movies and read about in books as they are to act out other types of scenarios. Be aware of the programs and movies your child watches and be available to talk about what they see. Also, encourage reading books that focus on caring and compassion.В

10. Explain that calling someone names or excluding him from play can be as hurtful as hitting.В If you hear your child calling someone a “poo-poo head” in the sandbox, go right into problem-solving mode with both children. Point out how the child who was called a name is upset: “Can you see the tears on his face?” Recognize that the real problem may be that the name-caller wants the giant sand bucket. Ask, “If you want something, what’s another way you can get it without hurting somebody else?” It’s also important to make sure the child who has been called the name isn’t feeling victimized, and encourage your child to apologize.В

11. Avoid setting up competition within your family.В If you say, “Let’s see who can clean up the fastest,” you risk setting your kids up as rivals. “When children are pitted against one another in an effort to win at anything,” Kohn says, “they learn that other people are potential obstacles to their success.” Instead, you could encourage them to work together to get the job done and praise them for their group effort.

12. Show your child how to help people in need.В You can encourage your child to donate a toy he has outgrown to the annual toy drive, while you buy a set of blocks to give away. He can also help you make cookies for a shelter and come with you when you visit someone in the hospital or nursing home.

13. Be patient with your little one. Kindness and compassion are learned and life presents challenging situations even to adults. Being a loving parent and a great role model will go a long way toward raising a wonderful, tolerant human being.

Kids can start developing good reading habits at home even before they learn to read. Here are eight simple tips to help you raise a reader.

1. Make reading a daily habit.

From the day your newborn comes home, you can start raising a reader. Babies respond to the soothing rhythm of a voice reading aloud, as well as to being cuddled on a warm lap. If you make reading part of your daily routine, your child is likely to grow up looking forward to it.

2. Read in front of your child.

Whether you love books, magazines, or graphic novels, let your child see you reading. Kids learn from what they observe. If you’re excited about reading, your child is likely to catch your enthusiasm.

3. Create a reading space.

Your reading space doesn’t have to be big or have a lot of bookshelves. It can be a corner of the couch or a chair in the room where your child sleeps. Picking a comfy spot that has enough light and room to keep a book or two can help your child connect reading with coziness and comfort.

4. Take trips to the library.

The library is a great place to explore new books and authors for free. Many libraries also have story hours or other literacy programs for kids. Trips to the library give your child a chance to develop good reading habits and to see other kids doing the same thing.

5. Let your child pick what to read.

That trip to the library can be extra special when you give your child time to look around and explore. Kids are more likely to want to read something they pick out themselves. If you’re concerned about finding the right reading level or topic, give your child a section of books to choose from.

6. Find reading moments in everyday life.

Reading isn’t just about sitting down with a good book. It’s a part of daily life, too. As you go through your day, help your child keep an eye out for “reading moments.” They may be as simple as reading road signs, grocery lists, or recipes.

7. Re-read favorite books.

You might get tired of reading the same story over and over again, but your child may love it. Kids like to spot things they missed the first time in the story or in the pictures. Re-reading also gives them a chance to connect the words they see on the page with the words they hear. Eventually, your child might even start reading the book to you.

8. Learn more about how kids read.

You may not be a teacher, but you are your child’s first teacher. Knowing a little bit about what reading skills to expect at different ages can help you support your child’s reading.

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About the Author

About the Author

Amanda Morin worked as a classroom teacher and as an early intervention specialist for 10 years. She is the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education. Two of her children have learning differences.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Elizabeth Babbin, EdD is an instructional specialist at Lower Macungie Middle School in Macungie, Pennsylvania.

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