I see a lot of “expert” parenting advice in my inbox. It seems everybody knows how to raise my kids and wants me to share their ideas with you! Once in a while, though, I do see something worth sharing. The following comes from Claire Haas of Kiddie Academy, and it has some simple tips to use in early childhood. The last tip, though, is the one that is the most valuable: if you want to raise caring kids, model the behavior yourself.
Reinforcing positive attitudes such as respect, empathy and caring begins by teaching children the how and why behind actions and emotions. Parents and caregivers can start these lessons by talking about feelings and consequences at even the earliest age.
Kiddie Academy’s Claire Haas offers the following age-appropriate tips for teaching empathy:
18 month – 2 year old: Children this young simply do not feel empathy for others, or easily express their emotions.
Tip: Talk about how your child’s actions impact other people. Lay the groundwork by demonstrating the proper behavior and offer praise when “catching” your child do the right thing.
3 year old: Limit your child’s ability to make a wrong choice while still allowing them to show concern for others.
Tip: Ask “Would you like to share toy A or toy B with Jimmy?”
4 year old: Empathy for others’ feelings really begins to develop at about four year old.
Tip: Ask “How do you think Anne felt when you took away the blocks?”
All ages: Haas also stresses the importance of being a positive role model. Children of all ages study their parents and caregivers for “clues” on how to behave.
It’s true for more than just raising a caring child. Whether it’s honesty, integrity, faith, education, or work ethic, if you want to instill positive values in your kids, start by living them yourself.
Ben Martin is the CEO of THE FATHER LIFE. He lives with his wife and five children in the Rochester, NY, area.