All parents want their kids to grow up to be better people than they are themselves. Here are six pieces of advice from Harvard academics on how to raise your child to be kind, responsible, and compassionate.
Anger, sadness, and disappointment can affect us as adults just as much as they can affect our children. But we can still teach our kids lessons about how to cope with negative emotions and how not to waste too much energy on them. When your child is in a calm mood, teach them the following trick: first breathe in deeply through your nose, then out through your mouth, and count to five. If you see that your child is worked up about something, remind him or her about these three steps and perform them together.
Mom and dad are the role models children strive to imitate and be similar to. Talk to them about morality and the idea of helping each other and caring for the world around us. Explain what it means to take responsibility for your actions. And most important of all — don’t forget to behave in accordance with your own words and encourage your child to do good things.
It’s very important that your child has the ability to feel compassion not only for his or her loved ones and friends but also for everyone who needs help. Ask them to imagine how they would feel if they were the new kid in class — this is a great way to get them thinking about these things. But also talk to them about more universal problems: What can you do for kids who don’t have anything to eat? What about those who don’t have a home? A parent can do much to help their child develop a sense of their social responsibilities.
It’s important that your child never feels too shy to acknowledge that they’re grateful for something or to someone. Begin with the little things. For example, ask them to hug and thank their grandma for the tasty treats she made them; remind them to always say thank you whenever it’s required, and to thank you and your partner for all you do for them. Research has shown that people who don’t shy away from expressing their gratitude are happier and healthier than those who do.
The majority of parents look upon their children’s successes at school or in sport somewhat reverently. Why not take the same attitude towards their ethical behavior? It’s important to clearly define your own family values and make sure your child adheres to them in both word and deed. Does he or she behave respectfully? Do they keep their promises? How do they behave towards their peers or with those who’ve upset them? Don’t forget who your child gets their examples from.
If all the communication you have with your child is reduced to talking about discipline, then matters won’t lead to much success. Try to build a trusting relationship with your child. Chat with them, play with them, spend time together, go on a trip somewhere, and, of course, never forget to show them how much you love them. This will all help them become a kind, sincere individual who will understand what love and respect are and be able to share these feelings with others around them.
Illustrated by Dinara Galieva for BrightSide.me
Based on materials from mcc.gse.harvard.edu