A flourishing South Africa will be a nation full of kind people! This is our dire need. I must start in my own home.
How do I teach my children to be kind persons?
Here is a little bit of a recipe (although doing life is much more complicated):
- As a parent, I must avoid using external rewards to reinforce kind behavior in my child. For instance, I may want to think twice before telling my kids that they’ll get a special treat if they share their toys, or promising them extra TV time if they help clean up after dinner. If I reward my kids when they do something kind, it may learn them that kindness is only worth performing when they’ll be given something as a result. Instead, my kids should get to experience the feeling that kindness is its own reward—a view backed up by neuroscience studies showing that pleasure centers of the brain light up when people behave with kindness. Being kind or helpful creates a sure feeling of wellness.
- I must focus on praising the character of my child, and not praising kind behavior. My children are more likely to make kindness a habit if I praise them for being kind people, rather than just for doing something kind. For example, saying, “You’re such a helpful person” may be more effective than saying, “That was such a helpful thing to do.” Praising their character encourages children to see kindness as an essential part of who they are and seems to be especially effective around age eight, when children are forming their moral identities.
- Children will be children, they will come up with selfishness and unkind behaviour. But how do I criticise mean or unkind behaviour? I criticise mean and unkind behaviour, not character. In other words, it’s OK to induce guilt but not shame. Children who feel guilt (“I did a bad thing”) after wrongdoing are more likely to feel remorse and make amends than those who feel shame (“I am a bad person”). Disapproving a behaviour conveys that it’s possible for the child to change his or her behaviour and make better choices in the future. Such criticism may be especially effective when it also includes positive affirmation (e.g., “You’re a good person, and I know you can do better.”)
- I, as a parent or grandparent, I must model altruistic and kind behaviour. Ultimately, actions speak louder than words when it comes to cultivating kindness. When my(grand)children witness, me behaving with kindness, they are more likely to behave with kindness and goodwill themselves.
Kind people with good hearts are happier and flourish more. I enjoy my children while enjoying my own kindness.