How to Teach Young Children to Care for Others
The reason children have a caring nature is that it starts in the womb and at birth.
If a child wasn’t given any kind of love, a child would not be able to give love or have compassion and empathy. This is why it’s important at birth to start small and bond with your newborn and as they grow, have some stuffed animals around so they can play and care for them. It’s your job as parents to teach your children how to care for their toys. If they learn how to care for their toys, they will learn how to care for others.
Parents have to learn that one minute your child may seem like an angel caring for their toys and the next minute, they are riling up the dog. The reason is kids still act on impulse when they are young. They don’t know how to control their impulses yet. Small children also feel that the world revolves around them so they have a problem with sharing their toys as well. This is because they are still developing mentally and are still learning to understand reasoning.
It’s really important in today’s world to be able to teach your children how to care for others. This seems to be more of a difficult task for people because there is so much violence in the world we live in. This doesn’t mean you have to talk until you turn blue but model your behavior by setting examples for your children. Be kind to others and teach them to be kind to their friends and other kids they might play with at the park. This is an ongoing experience where parents are constantly teaching and children are constantly learning.
Parents also have to take into consideration that all kids have different personalities and temperaments. Some kids are naturally intuitive to others that are having problems and other children are in their own world. Regardless, it’s still your job as parents to encourage your child to show compassion.
The first thing parents should do is demonstrate how to be gentle. Kids are naturally rough when they are small but if you take a toddler’s hand and keep saying the word nice when petting the dog, they will eventually get it. Children have a natural ability to please others. Always use a gentle voice because the tone is really important when it comes to communication with small children. If your child hurts himself and you are gruff, they will feel they did something wrong and carry that with them for life. On the other hand, if your child hurts themselves or is sad about an event that occurred, the kind tone of your voice will soothe them. Some say toddlers only think short term, but some small children have memories of traumatic events and this shapes their way of showing anger or kindness in the future.
If your child is pulling your hair violently, tell them to stop! It’s not a good idea to think this is cute and do nothing about it or soon they will be bullying you and everyone else around. You have to teach your child compassion and teach them how to be respectful to you and everyone else they encounter. If you happen to lose your temper, it’s ok to say I’m sorry to your child. You might have scared your child if you were rough when you removed their hand but on the flip side, they can’t be pulling your hair violently either.
Be consistent with everything you do with your children. Make sure that you follow through with the rules and boundaries that you set when teaching children how to care for others. You don’t want to send mixed messages to your child and confuse them and cause them to be self-centered. If it’s a holiday and they do something that is totally out of line, they still have to suffer the consequences. You can’t let anything slide even if it is a special event.
Make sure your children help if you have an obligation to take care of your neighbor’s plants while they are gone. You can teach a small child how to water a plant and put plant food inside the plant. They can also help you feed the fish for neighbors if they are on vacation. This also shows them how to care for others.
Teach your children manners.
If they see the mailman delivering the mail on a rainy summer day, it doesn’t hurt to say thank you to the mailman for getting the mail to your house on time during a rainstorm. If your child is ready for playdates, don’t let name-calling slip by. Talk to both of the children and tell them name calling is not appropriate and only hurts the other child’s feelings. Talk about the rules of kindness and explain to your child if one of their friends likes calling names, they should ignore it and try to be nice. This can break the cycle in your child’s life because they aren’t used to name-calling.
Consequences are the most important way to reinforce the rules. If your toddler still isn’t sure about what kindness really is, then give them a time out if they hit a friend with a toy. If you are at the park and your child throws sand, then it’s time to go because throwing sand is inappropriate and can get into the other child’s eyes. You have to explain that to your toddler and take them home immediately. This will teach them that they must treat others with kindness.
If you notice your child is offering one of their toys to a friend, tell the child that you are proud of them for being so kind. Talk to your child that helping others by sharing is thoughtful and they should keep up the good work.
If you are talking to your friends on the phone or in person, remember not to use vulgar language because your child is listening at all times. You might be surprised one day when your child uses vulgar words and wonder where that came from. Think before you speak and choose your words when you talk to others.
When you take your child to the store and various organizations are collecting for a charity, give your child some spare change to throw into the bucket. When your child asks what this was all about, explain to them that they can help people in many ways even if they contribute a few quarters to a cause for the poor or for the men who fought for our country. Tell them what the charity is all about and every penny helps buy these people the items that are necessary that they can’t afford.
When your child is old enough have them do some small tasks around the house or outside. If you are shoveling, give your child a shovel that is child-sized so they may help you shovel outside. Kids love to help and as they get older, make a list of small tasks they are capable of because you are reinforcing teaching them to care enough to help you and others.
Don’t wait until your children reach 4th grade before you decide it’s time to teach them to be kind to others. Start when they are born by showing them your love. The world we live in is very challenging and by 4th grade, you might have a bully on your hands and wonder where you went wrong. Make sure you keep in mind to start showing kindness as soon as they can hear your voice. Read our other blog about what to do if your child displays cruelty towards animals.