Teaching Kids Kindness
It's not easy to keep your cool when your kids are hurling insults (and sometimes furniture) at each other. "Stop fighting," you scream, and everyone ignores you. How can you get your kids to be kind to each other?
Be a good role model
There's an ugly truth you learn when you become a parent: you can't hide anything from your kids. Do you have a habit of eating over the sink? What's your 12-year-old doing right now? Oh, hey,
look, eating over the sink. You curse? You yell? You use sarcasm all the livelong day? Anyone who spends 10 minutes with your kids can tell more about you than you ever planned to reveal.
Watch your tone
When you lose your temper, do you start to shout? When you argue with your spouse, do you raise your voice? Here's a simple trick: keep your tone respectful. Your words will follow suit. It's hard to remember, so make a point of really focusing on this for a week or so. Over time, your kids will notice, and they will start to copy this behavior, too.
Make it a rule that no one in your house can ask for anything -- a diaper, a pencil, dinner, anything -- without tacking on a "please" at the end of the request. "Change the channel, please." "Pass the salt, please." "Pick up your toys, please." It's automatic -- but it still makes a difference. And whenever someone gives you anything, or does anything for you, say "thank you." Every time. Your kids will follow suit.
Bite back the "I told you so" and work on empathizing with your kids when they make mistakes, hurt themselves, or otherwise stumble in life. Instead of "Well, that's what you get for running," tend
to the bruise, or even just offer an, "Ouch! That must have hurt!"
Want to know how your younger child views you? Role play a little. Say, "You're the mommy now. I'm the baby (or big girl, or boy)." Then sit back, and see yourself as your child sees you.
You can also make a point of rewarding kindness. That doesn't mean you have to bribe your kids to be nice to each other, but notice when they are. Your toddlers are sharing? Praise them, and offer
to share a treat with them. Your teenage driver offered to take his sister to the mall? Thank him, and give him some gas money.