“Kindness is everything!” How many times did I preach this to my kids?! But in more recent years I have been rethinking the concept – shouldn’t we rather be teaching them that “kindness is something but not absolutely everything!”.
In a world that is tumultuous and divisive, fostering kindness in our children from an early age is vital for the very reason that it turns them into kind and compassionate adults who go onto their own lives making a difference. Perhaps, we hope, they’ll touch others and therefore create a more harmonious society.
However, as much as we want our kids to heal the world, one kind act at a time, it is also crucial to help teach them to strike a good balance between kindness and self-preservation. One could say that for them to be kind to others, they must first be kind to themselves, because it’s sad but true that too much kindness can be exploited to the point of burnout.
Of course, all the popular quotes about kindness still apply. “In a world where you can be anything, be kind” is one of my all-time favourites so teach it and all the others to your children. Stick them on your fridge. Let them sink in. But, at the same time, let your kids know that there will be times when their boundaries are being pushed, and then it is absolutely okay to pull back on kindness and use it for themselves.
So, what does “being too kind” feel like? It’s when you are sacrificing your own needs or bottling up your emotions and suppressing what you really want to say to a person for fear of upsetting them. If you are acting kindly because you feel otherwise guilty, then you can be sure this will lead to resentment. If you are feeling manipulated into being kind, then you are being exploited.
Being kind without being a walkover is a delicate balancing act and one which we need to teach to our children for the sake of a more tolerant, compassionate and understanding world.
Here are 5 ways you can teach your kids how to be kind humans while staying true to themselves:
- Empathy and emotional intelligence
Kindness is rooted in empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. By teaching our children to be kind, we grow their emotional intelligence, and this enables them to connect with and support those around them. Empathetic individuals are more likely to build strong relationships, resolve conflicts peacefully, and create a supportive community.
- Foster social responsibility
Kindness teaches our children to recognise their responsibility towards society and this encourages them to become active participants in making the world a better place. Show them from a young age how they can give to those in need and how to simply treat others with respect and compassion.
- Build emotional resilience
Kindness is not synonymous with weakness. By emphasising that kindness should not come at the cost of their own well-being, we teach children to set healthy boundaries and develop emotional resilience. They learn to balance kindness with self-care, understanding that taking care of themselves allows them to be more effective in helping those who really need it.
- Lead by example
Children learn best through observation, and they model themselves on the behaviour of their parents and caregivers. It is therefore vital that we model kindness in our own actions, treating others with empathy, respect, and compassion, but also by being kind to ourselves. By consistently demonstrating kindness, we create a lasting impact on our children, showing them the transformative power of this virtuous act.
- See other perspectives
Kindness grows when children learn to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. Teach your children to discuss scenarios from different viewpoints. This promotes empathy and it helps them see how their actions can impact others. By exposing them to diverse experiences and cultures, children develop a deeper appreciation for the power of kindness and how it can build bridges of understanding.
These days, I like to tell my kids, who are now teenagers, that kindness makes us strong, perceptive, and resilient because it helps us to get a good read on ourselves and others. It shows us where we need to put boundaries in place and teaches us to stand up for ourselves while still helping those who need it. It opens us up to self-care while still caring for others. It gives us the courage to be honest with grace. It makes us compassionate in a world that needs it more than ever.