Here's How You Can Make Sure Your Kid Is Kind Later In Life, According To Experts

By
Share
Ad failed to load

Before my son started preschool this year, my partner and I met with his teacher for an entrance interview. When we were asked what my son's greatest strength was, I didn't have to think about it: kindness is definitely his superpower. He's always gone out of his way to make other people feel special. It makes me so proud, and is definitely something I want him to continue to value as he grows. But how can I make that happen? Are there things you can do to make your kid kind later in life? Turns out, there are, and there are more than a few experts that can help guide you, too.

According to researchers at Harvard University Graduate School of Education, almost all parents want their kids to be kind, with 96 percent of parents in their study citing moral character as a top priority for their kids. Their kids, however, are hearing something else entirely. Eighty-one percent of 10,000 kids in the survey thought their parents' number one concern was their happiness. Not surprisingly, those kids also wanted to be happy (80 percent) over being kind (20 percent).

Sadly, most of the kids surveyed agreed with the following statement: "My parents are prouder if I get good grades, than if I’m a caring community member." And 57 percent of high school students thought that successful adults are willing to cheat to win. Given the current political climate, and the troubling revelations regarding the inappropriate and predatory conduct of men in high positions of power, the aforementioned is hardly surprising.

Ad failed to load
Giphy

In our attempts to raise successful, happy children, parents have let kindness take a back seat, and it may be starting to show. According to Stopbullying.gov, 28 percent of 6th to 12th graders report being bullied, and 30 percent of kids admit to bullying other kids. Additionally, according to the American Educational Research Association (AERA) one-in-four middle school students report being sexually harassed at school.

So, what can we do?

Ad failed to load
When we encourage our kids to donate their old toys to charity, participate in food drives at school, or befriend a kid who is shy or new to the neighborhood, we are promoting their future kindness.

The good news is that kids are pretty much programmed to be kind. According to researchers at University of British Columbia and University of California, Riverside, kids as young as 18 months begin doing nice things for others, both prompted and unprompted. What's more, if you continue to encourage your children to do things for others, they will also be happier. You see, happiness and altruism are bidirectional, which means that happy people do more kind things and doing things for others makes people happy, which sounds like a win-win situation to me.

When we encourage our kids to donate their old toys to charity, participate in food drives at school, or befriend a kid who is shy or new to the neighborhood, we are promoting their future kindness. According to Patty O’Grady, PhD, a professor at the University of Tampa, this is because doing kind things can actually change the way kids' brains work. As O'Grady writes for Psychology Today:

Ad failed to load

Researchers posit that these warm feelings can teach children the value of collaboration and to trust each other. I've definitely seen this in my own family, especiallly when we encourage our kids to be kind to one another and collaborate on projects and games.

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery
Ad failed to load

I also try (but don't always succeed) to encourage my kids to read books and watch media that demonstrates kindness. It's pretty hard to teach your kids to be good without an immediate reward, if the only heroes they are exposed to do things for personal gain, versus to help others. Research seems to back this up, too. In a study published in the Journal of Children and Media young children ages 2-6 who watched the show Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, had better social skills, empathy, and emotional intelligence compared to those who didn't. I knew I loved that show for a reason.

Kids don't buy "do what I say, not what I do."

According to researchers at Penn State Harrisburg, school-based anti-bullying programs involving discussions of violence and kindness, featuring literature on these topics can be the key to reducing bullying. Some books they recommend include The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher, The Scarlet Ibis by James Hurst, and No Shame, No Fear by Anne Turnbull. For younger audiences, I recommend my daughter's favorite book, Have You Filled A Bucket Today?, which is pretty much Kindness 101.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

Harvard Psychologist Richard Weissbourd told the Washington Post that one way we can teach our kids to prioritize kindness, is to help them understand the impact of their decisions on other people. As reported by The Washington Post, Weisbbourd stated the following:

Ad failed to load

This is similar to providing natural or logical consequences, instead of punishments, when your kids make mistakes. It adds the component of community, and helps us teach our kids to evaluate decisions before they make them, based on possible consequences not only for themselves but for other people, too.

Weissbourd adds that one of best ways to teach your kids to be kind is to be kind yourself. Kids don't buy "do what I say, not what I do." If you want your kids to know that you truly value kindness, show them — be kind to others, hold open doors, use good manners, use inclusive language, give money to charitable causes, and volunteer in your community. It seems that like many things in parenting, the answer is a lot more simple than we make it out to be. The secret to raising kind adults is being one yourself in big ways and little ways every single day.  

Ad failed to load

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

8 Things That *Will* Go Wrong Every Time You Plan A Kid-Free Night

The last time my husband and I went out to dinner alone was… actually, I can’t remember. But I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen a movie in a theater in the last year. Before we had children we used to go out all the time. But even with …
By Liza Wyles

These Photos Of North West Then & Now Will Take You On A Sweet Trip Down Memory Lane

When Kim Kardashian welcomed her first daughter, North West, with her husband, Kanye West, in 2013, her whole life was changed. The social media and reality TV star became a mom for the first time and her Instagram presence took a very adorable turn.…
By Casey Suglia

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

This Is What It Means If Your Pregnancy Test Changes Overnight

The time between when a woman suspects she might be pregnant and when it is confirmed for sure is the longest of her life. Regardless of whether you are hoping for a positive or a negative result, the odds are good that you are sweating bullets when …
By Shannon Evans

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

11 Ways Your Pregnancy Will Be Different If You Have A Boy Vs A Girl

If you've been pregnant before, you might start comparing your previous pregnancies to that of your current pregnancy. A lot of things can change from pregnancy to pregnancy, based on a whole host of different factors (including how well you remember…
By Lauren Schumacker

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

12 Moms Share How They Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of the roughest flu seasons in recent memory. And we’re not totally out of the woods, either. People around the country are still getting the flu, and, sadly, some of them are having to be hospitalized due to flu-re…
By Priscilla Blossom

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack