When we think about the many things we teach our children – reading, math, even manners – it can be easy to forget about the basics – like kindness and generosity. But those are skills we have to develop, even as adults.
Kindness and generosity are one of the best things children can do for their well-being. Research shows that when kids are kind, they feel good about themselves, have more friendships and actually get better grades. But kindness does not always come naturally to children, although there are ways to help encourage it.
As a parent, you make sure your kids are safe, well fed, go to school and have more opportunities than you ever had at their age. But, there’s another part of parenting that’s perhaps the most challenging – helping them learn about the “human heart.” In this case, it’s not about the physical anatomy, but the emotional anatomy.
Part of how kids learn about the world and themselves is through their social interactions with their peers. And, there are lots of benefits to peer support. Friends can offer feedback, advice and encouragement.
While peer pressure can have a positive influence, it can also have negative influences – as we know all too well. When kids or teens don’t feel like they belong, it can lead to depression, anxiety and lower emotional health.
It turns out psychologists may have gotten it wrong. Over the years, there has been a tremendous emphasis in our society on building kids’ self-esteem. Psychologists now think we should be teaching children how to develop self-compassion instead.
Someone once said it’s not what kind of world we’re leaving for our children, but what kind of children we’re leaving for our world. Kindness and a sense of gratitude are core values that we need to help encourage in children. And, while encouraging a positive mindset is something to consider all year long, the holidays present a unique opportunity to focus on a message of gratitude.
Studies have shown that children who cultivate gratitude in their lives have better social relationships and do better in school. Being grateful actually contributes to our overall sense of well-being and helps increase our happiness. But, as any parent of a young child knows – especially during the holidays – encouraging gratitude in the midst of pressure for expensive or numerous gifts can be challenging.
So, how do parents help encourage gratitude in children?