Every parent wants to raise a good kid — someone who is caring, understanding, polite, ethical — but your little ones can't do it alone; they need help and guidance from the adults in their lives.
According to human development researchers at Harvard, there are some guidelines supported by research studies that parents can look to for help raising a caring child, as well as seven tips to help put it all into action.
1. Spend time with your kids regularly and engage in meaningful conversation
By spending time with kids regularly, they will learn to be caring and loving by example — show affection, take a genuine interest in their life, encourage their efforts and praise their accomplishments, ask open-ended questions to foster meaningful conversation, support them endlessly.
A positive and respectful relationship between you and your kids will show them what good relationships look like so they can emulate that with others.
2. Be a solid role model and a strong mentor
Children will respect what you tell them to do when they see you doing the same, so pay close attention to the way you practice the values you're urging your children to follow — honesty, humility, contributing to the community — as they will pick up on the way you act.
Tell them when you make a mistake and talk them through the way you'll fix it, engage in community service as a family, let them know it's important to reach out to people you trust when you need advice or assistance, and encourage them to always be attentive to others.
3. Send clear messages and prioritise being kind
Caring for others is often encouraged as a top priority, so treat it that way by holding your children to high ethical expectations not only in your own home but at school and in the community.
Ask their teachers if they are caring during the school day, tell your kids that it's important that they are kind to others, and encourage them to work out problems by thinking about the people who will be affected by their actions.
4. Provide opportunities to be caring by giving responsibilities
When children are expected to do chores around the house, helping others will more likely become a natural opportunity for them to be caring in their daily routine. Start conversations with your kids about things they see going on in the community and all over the world to expand their understanding of acts of caring on a more elevated level.
Also, express gratitude and appreciation to them and motivate them to make giving thanks to others a part of their everyday practice.
5. Help children to "zoom out" to understand the range of hardships and experiences other people face
Children typically care about a smaller group of family and friends, but to expand their circle, try to talk about other communities and the different challenges people face.
Discuss issues and provide them with ideas of ways they could help fix some of the problems they see in their own community. Encourage them to listen to others, especially those who may be different than them, to foster understanding and compassion.
6. Provide opportunities for kids to take action, join causes, and do for others
When your child is faced with an issue, help them take action and talk it out, and encourage them to work with others to solve problems. Try to translate their interests into a cause they could join — for example, if they like animals, they could volunteer at a shelter — and give them opportunities to talk about ethical dilemmas that come up both in real life and in the media.
7. Help children to identify feelings and resolve conflicts with self-control
Encourage your children to identify their feelings and then provide them with the tools to manage them with control — deep breaths, counting until they are calm — and help them to resolve conflicts by also understanding the feelings that others are experiencing.