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5 Unexpected Ways To Teach Kids Kindness

This article is brought to you by Dignity Health

Humankindness is one of life's greatest assets -- a quality anyone can acquire, nurture and share throughout a lifetime to benefit from both the giving and the getting. Leading by example every day is the most powerful tool you've got to develop a spirit of kindness in children as they develop, laying a foundation that leads to a rewarding personal and professional outlook in life.

Teach Kindness By Example

Imagine a scenario where your child accompanies you on your errands. Within a short space of time, there could be opportunities to let another driver go ahead of you, hold the door open for someone, say hello to a neighbor, thank the grocery checkout clerk, be generous with smiles and a wave hello. You'll feel great, they'll feel appreciative, and your child will model behavior accordingly. It's a win-win-win.

Those who perform more acts of kindness throughout the day are less likely to report negative emotions and can better maintain positive emotion." - Dr. Emily Ansell, Yale University School of Medicine

Show That Sharing Is Caring

Reinforce good manners and positive attribution for acts of kindness. Young children need regular opportunities to practice sharing from a simple play session to a toy drive at the holidays. Learning how to share takes time and practice. To encourage sharing toys, books and snacks, a parent might say, "I see that you shared with your toys with your sister. You're such a generous person who likes to make others people feel good." Or, "I feel so proud of you for sharing your snack with your friend." Remember to share a hug, too.

"Share your stuff, it's not so tough." - Barney & Friends, PBS

Demonstrate Respect For Animals

Even very young children can form relationships with pets. If there's an animal in the home, showing them every single day that they are loved will certainly affect babies and toddlers in their first two years of life. If there are no pets at home, as children grow, parents can seek out opportunities for interaction with animals from petting farms to puppies on a leash in the park. Children can be taught that animals respond to tone of voice, stroking, and handling gently, just as babies do. The larger lesson -- it's important to be kind to all living things -- will not be lost on children of all ages.

"Animals are such agreeable creatures -- they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." - George Eliot, 19th century novelist

Instill Empathy In Toddlers

Put yourself in their shoes," is a cliché that deserves closer examination. Because young children are naturally engineered to learn how to express their own feelings, learning how to interpret the feelings of others takes some teaching. There are big benefits when adults say, "How would you feel about that?" Research indicates that practicing empathy has resounding positive implications socially, academically, and professionally. When we empathize, we don't judge or criticize. Open hearts and minds encourages compassion and an ability to appreciate other points of view, which leads to more mutually satisfying outcomes.

"Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another." - Alfred Adler, world renowned philosopher and psychiatrist.

Ask Children What Kindness Is

Have a conversation. Kindergarteners have already developed definite views on kindness. They talk about sharing snacks, helping someone who falls down, lending a hand to a friend who is struggling with a task, playing with someone who is sitting alone. Five-year-olds are quite articulate about expressing the strength of a kind act, "It made me feel like I was going to explode because they loved me that much," said one little girl in a popular online video. We can learn a lot from the wisdom of children.

"Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree." - Marion Wright Edelman, Founder of the Children's Defense Fund.

The Great Kindness Challenge

Dignity Health recently teamed up with Kids for Peace and students of all ages for the 2016 Great Kindness Challenge, which took place January 25-29, 2016.

The Great Kindness Challenge is a bullying prevention initiative dedicated to creating a culture of kindness in elementary, middle, and high schools nationwide by challenging students to complete 50 acts of kindness in one week, and make a lifelong commitment to kindness. A record breaking year, the 2016 Great Kindness Challenge had more than 5 million students participate, completing more than 250 million acts of kindness.

Watch to get more ideas about creating a culture of kindness. Kindness matters!

This article was written by Laurie Jo Miller Farr via for CBS Local Media

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