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Teaching Children Kindness

By CFI Predoctoral Fellow Kai Primus-Dawson, M.A.

Most adults do not remember a time when they were explicitly taught kindness as a child, in fact, it may seem like something that you either naturally have or don’t. While certain characteristics in a person cannot be changed, there are some things that a caregiver can do to encourage kindness, respect, and love in their children

In this day and age, where children have access to violence and aggression across various technological platforms, it’s important to balance that exposure with purposeful strategies that promote caring attitudes in our children. According to research, children are able to display empathy and compassion from a very early age (American Psychological Association, 2013). Caregivers can build on this ability on a daily basis in subtle ways that largely benefit children. 

Here are some tips for promoting kindness, respect, and love at home:

1. Express to your children how much it means to you that they behave with kindness and responsibility; this will act as positive reinforcement for the behaviors you want to see and can be preventative for other challenging behaviors.

2. Address unkind or thoughtless behavior immediately. Keep the focus on the act and not the child personally (For example: “Doing XYZ was not very nice” rather than “You are not being nice”).

3. Provide information with your emotional reaction (For example: “Bobby is crying because you threw a block at him. Throwing blocks is not very nice.”).

4. Set an example, children watch their caregivers for clues on how to behave/ react. Children who watch their parents consistently behave compassionately are more likely to behave that way too.

Don’t say one thing and do another; children will pay more attention to how you act rather than what you say.

Counteract negative influences by:

1. Giving children books promoting compassionate behavior.

2. Limiting the viewing of violent programs and encouraging children to watch shows that promote kindness and helping.

3. Discussing what a child saw if they were exposed to violence in the media. Ask them what they think and what could be other approaches the character could have taken.

4. Providing a secure base at home where the child feels safe, loved, and respected.


American Psychological Association. (2013). What makes kids care? Teaching gentleness in a violent world. Retrieved September 27, 2023 from

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