A child is constantly learning and is taught many things – reading, writing, sports, fitness, painting, drawing, dancing, and so much more. But that’s not all. There are several values that, too, must be inculcated in a little one from early childhood. Teaching these values, however, is trickier than explaining a topic that fall under a defined curriculum.
Values are learnt through emulation, by seeing them being practiced actively in the environment around us. In this article, we focus on two very important values – kindness and empathy, tools that are necessary to practice gentle living and eventually lead our next generation towards a more humane and inclusive tomorrow.
Kindness, though it seems a simple enough concept, is difficult to practice consistently. Let’s admit – it is difficult even for us adults to remain kind when situations become demanding. How do we then ensure that our children grow up to be kind human beings?
Let’s explore a few simple things that can help create an environment to teach our children kindness and empathy.
Smiling is contagious. It is disarming. It is the first step towards making others around us feel comfortable. Giving comfort to each other is an essential ingredient in ensuring a kind and benevolent outlook towards them. A study conducted in Sweden showed that smiles, involuntarily, beget smiles. If you maintain a pleasing and pleasant countenance, the mirror neurons in your little one’s minds will make them smile as well. This will help maintain a cheerful disposition which in turn will lead to a patient and kind approach especially in demanding situations.
- TELL A STORY
In our culture, stories have been an effective tool for passing on values. Remember the story where Prince Siddhartha takes care of a wounded swan? In that story, and in many others, the virtues of having a kind, loving and compassionate heart are emphasised. Make these fables and parables a part of your together time. Learn the value of kindness from the rich trove of tales from Jataka, Panchatantra and Aesop’s Fables and through them help pass this message on to your toddler.
- BE AN EXAMPLE
Nothing reinforces the idea of being kind than an act of kindness itself. Build a vocabulary of kind thoughts. Send across good wishes and have your toddler do the same. Use phrases such as, ‘May he be well’, ‘May she be happy’ a part of your daily, conscious conversations. Encourage your kid to perform acts of kindness. For example, ask them to give a hug to a sibling when they are not feeling bright, or, make a card for a classmate just to wish her well.
Emotional intelligence is not always something that a child is born with. Fortunately, it can be taught. Practice kindness and compassion, and see your child grow up with these values effortlessly!