Everyone likes a child who is kind to others. But...how can you be sure to teach your kids these important qualities?
Teaching children to be kind to others is one of the very most important tasks in our preschool. Truth be told, I care more about teaching preschoolers to be a good person than about their reading skills. However, teaching reading can actually be easier in many instances.
Preschoolers (and most children) typically think about their own wants and feelings first. Well, if we are being really honest here, I think it's fair to say that many adults do, too. It's just kinda human nature. It probably stems far back from some sort of survival need.
With little kids, one of the biggest challenges is always around everyone wanting the same item at the same time. There could be 500 toys in a room, but inevitably 5 kids will all want the same truck, or the same princess dress, or the same...well you get the point. If someone else is playing with it, it must be good! That is just the way it goes. So, how do we handle this and teach empathy and kindness in the meantime?
We are really big on teaching young ones to use their words. So, when another child is using something and they would like to also use the same exact item (because now they noticed it since other said child made it look appealing), we teach them how to go ask the other child for a turn when he/she is done. It's pretty simple, they just need to say, "Can I please have a turn in a few minutes?" However, this is something that most young children would not think of saying on their own.
Instead, most little ones will choose to either grab the toy from the other child, whine and cry about how they wanted that toy, or just throw a full on fit in hopes that they will get their way. Teaching young children that their voice is important and can be heard can truly be empowering. It's typically not a natural first response, but it can so easily be taught.
Another extremely common occurrence with little ones is destroying someone else's hard work with a block tower or similar. Building a big huge tower with blocks or Magna-Tiles can take a long time, and children are often so very proud of what they have built. They will often work together in a group (blocks and Magna-Tiles are some of the very best cooperative toys, by the way) to make something amazing. It really is pretty cool.
Unfortunately, it is very appealing, even more so sometimes, to knock down one of these super cool towers. Usually, the child who wants to knock these cool buildings over is not one of the children who helped create the amazing tower. This leads to big tears sometimes.
I can understand how it looks like fun to try to be King Kong, but obviously the other children working so very hard on the building do not appreciate the movie scene.
No matter how hard we try, it is just going to happen sometimes. So, what do we do? How do we teach the "King Kong" child that it was not a kind choice?
One again, we like to teach them about the power of their words. First, we ask the offending child to look at the other child(ren)'s face. It's important that the child can see how the other child is feeling sad. This helps to cultivate empathy. If a child can learn empathy, it will really help him/her learn how to naturally be kind to others in the long run.
Next, we have the child apologize. Even if he/she does not feel truly empathetic, this is an important step because the child can learn this is the right thing to do. I know some people will disagree with this, but even if you cannot make a child feel empathetic, you can still make the sad child feel validated if they can hear an, "I'm sorry." It's almost just form of good manners.
Finally, we ask the offending child to help rebuild the building or tower or whatever it was. It may not end up being as cool as it was originally, but at least the child who knocked it over will learn to help fix something they destroy, and the child(ren) who built it will feel cared for.
We also like to teach children how to wait their turn to talk and share their ideas. Little kids like to immediately share their ideas as soon as it pops into their mind. They are not trying to dismiss what others are saying, but they are just so very excited by whatever is in their head.
Some things a child can do to be respectful of others when they want to share something:
In a classroom, raise a quiet hand. This means his/her voice and noises need to be off.
Another group setting option is to hold up a quiet candle. This just simply means to hold up an index finger. And once again, be quiet.
One more fabulous idea for at home or small group settings, is to have the child put a hand on the adult's arm. This means the child needs to quietly wait until the adult is ready, and hold his/her hand on the adult's arm. I personally love this one with my own kids. It works great!
The last kindness tip I'm going to share today is how we teach little ones to wait to start eating until we say a thank you poem. It's just one more way to think about others, and practice self control.
Watch my YouTube videos to learn the motions for our Thankful Poem and for a review of the methods described in this post. Hope this helps you raise more kind children for our world! xoxo
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