Yes, you can teach your kids to be more loving… even to their siblings and parents.
Oh, February. The month of love. The month of bouquets. The month of chocolates and giant teddy bears that you will definitely throw away because what adult actually wants a giant teddy bear in their home?
Okay, maybe I sound a little too cynical. But sometimes it’s hard for us parents to have a good attitude about Valentine’s Day when our romantic candlelit dinners have been replaced with a house full of kids so hyped up on sugar that we can’t stop them from running around the house screaming, much less get them to go to sleep at a decent hour.
Plus, it’s hard to get into that lovey-dovey mood when most of your day was spent breaking up fights and trying to stop temper tantrums. And anyway, how are you supposed to teach your kids love and kindness when their favorite extracurricular activity is tackling their siblings caveman-style?
Teaching love isn’t easy—but it can be done. And it’s probably the most important thing you’ll ever teach. Just remember that your child will never be a cute little Cupid, flying around spreading love to everyone all the time. Cupid doesn’t exist, and neither does the perfect angel we’re all trying so hard to raise. But you can still instill an attitude of love in your little one. And we’ve got some tips to help you.
Be their example. As children’s minds develop, they need a source from which to draw their beliefs about the way they should behave in the world. And whether you like it or not, right now, you are your child’s main source of information. Everything you say, everything they do—kids take it all to heart.
When kids are young, you are their truth. They’ll do what you do, and they’ll say what you say. So the first thing you can do in teaching your children to be loving and kind is to demonstrate it yourself. Ask the cashier how his day is going. Help the old lady across the street. (Honestly, though, has this scenario ever happened in real life?) Be intentional in the way you act around your kids, and kindness will naturally become the framework that they operate in.
No generic parenting. Any parenting book will tell you how to raise your child… but no parenting book actually knows how to raise your child because they’ve never met your child. Only you know your kid’s unique characteristics—what makes them angry, what stresses them out, what tires them. Pay attention to who your child is as a person, and you’ll be able to identify the reasons that they argue or whine. From there, you can help them identify why they’re being unkind in the first place—and work with them to fix it.
Point out progress. Did your kid say something sweet? Did they give their sister a kiss goodnight? Don’t just tweet it or post it on Facebook for all your other parents to see. When your kid does something loving—tell them how directly nice it was. It’s a simple step, but it helps them recognize what love actually looks like.
Give grace. I’ve been listening to this song by Florence and the Machine a lot lately. In it, she sings, “[Grace] is the only thing I’ve ever had any faith in. Grace, I know you carry us.” And it’s true. Grace—the thing that says, Hey, you messed up, but if you want to, you can do better next time—is the thing that allows us to become more loving people. And kids need it just as much as adults. So when your child hits their brother for the second time this week, don’t start yelling. Correct their behavior—and then give them another chance to be better.
And in the spirit of Valentine’s Day (no matter how spirited you’re actually feeling), check out this blog post with some specific tips and activities to teach your kids love and kindness.
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