"In a world where you can be anything, be kind." In a time of chaotic world events, an unprecedented pandemic and political and social turmoil across the globe, this is a saying that has been doing the rounds a lot lately. And it's as relevant for us parents as it is for our children, whatever their age. Here Dr Hibah Shatam, owner of Maharat, Child Early Intervention, Child Learning Enrichment Dr Hibah Shata Clinic, shares her tips to help us lead the way with kindness...
BE A KINDNESS ROLE MODEL
Being a role model for your children happens naturally as they watch everything you do. By watching you being kind, your child will imitate the act and then, by imitating kindness, realise its value and do it themselves. "Practicing kindness is a very powerful method of helping a child to be kind. For example, helping a person in need, or putting food and water out for a helpless animal – all of these types of scenarios are capable of launching an early experience of kindness, and the realisation of that concept, in the emotions and minds of children."
TREAT THEM WITH KINDNESS
Obviously one of the best ways to foster kindness is to treat your child with kindness. Every day, from the moment they wake up, you can thank them for things they do and teach them how to ask for things politely – and thank them when they do. When you see someone needing help, ask your child to help them out and thank them for it, talking about how amazing they were when they helped others. There are many occasions that can be used every day, from saying hello to the security guard at the door of the school, to feeding the pets, or watering the plants, to saying thank you to others when they do something for us, or giving money or food to people in need.”
MAKE POSITIVITY LISTS
Write a list with your child of friends and family that your child likes, noting down what they like about that person and how that person makes others happy. This helps them to express their emotions in a positive way. You may need to encourage and reinforce them, so be sure to do it with them. Hang the list at home where others can see it and praise it. You can also add photos and make a story that you can share with other kids.
READ AND WRITE STORIES
Many stories for children about kindness can be found online for free on websites such as Freestoriesforkids.com where they actually have a section of stories on values and virtues. Additionally, you can help your child to create their own stories about kindness. There are also many apps available to help children create social stories that model a concept or encourage a certain behaviour for the child to learn. You can add the child’s voice and your own photos and let the child make his own movie. The child can create a scenario and a narrative between characters like comic strips. Some of the apps I recommend are Pictello, Book Creator and Tar Heel Reader.
Children who are constantly rewarded for good behaviour become more natural at doing it. Catch the moments when they behave kindly to others and follow it up with praise and reinforcement – either in the moment, or quietly later when you are alone. The more you practice reinforcement the more likely it is for the behaviour to reoccur.
TEACH THEM SELF-CARE
A person who is incapable of being kind to their own self is hardly going to be capable of showing kindness to others. In this way, self-care is an essential step on the ladder of emotional evolution. Teach your child to do nice things for themselves. For example, ask them to help you cook their favourite meal, or give them the money in the store to buy something nice for themselves. Ask your child to do a drawing or a painting about what they like about themselves, or what makes them feel good about themselves. This will make help them realise that being kind to others makes them feel good too.
GET INVOLVED WITH A CHARITY OR A CAUSE
Choosing a charitable, or a social, cause teaches children that even a little time and energy can make a big difference. Involve them in selecting what they would like to do and do it as a family, so they learn how teamwork can make a big difference. Talk to them about how they felt after to reinforce the joy of kindness.
- Tabitha Barda is the former Parenting editor at Gulf News.