Promote Kindness in Teens
The values that children believe are important to their parents have a significant impact on their development. In fact, in a study released in November 2016 by Arizona State University, researchers discovered that children performed better in school – both in grades and behavior – if they believed that their parents valued kindness over personal achievement or success. Ironically, the research demonstrated that parents who pushed their children to achieve academically actually had lower grades and were more likely to experience depression or anxiety.
Encouraging our children to embrace kindness can help them feel happier, improve their chance of success, and experience better relationships. Parents should always work to instill good character in their teens, which means talking to them about the importance of integrity and respect, and how backstabbing or gossiping can harm their relationships. Your teen should know that you believe friends and family are as important, if not more, than any achievements or awards.
So what is kindness? It is treating others with respect, compassion and care. It is a decision to show another person friendship or to consider how another person might be feeling, even in a difficult or uncomfortable situation. The “busyness” of our culture can often make us self-focused, so we must intentionally decide to be kind.
Ways to Encourage Kindness in Teens
There are 4 simple ways to encourage our teens to be kind. You don’t have to do all of these at one time. Pick one and see how it impacts your teen.
Role model. Studies show that parental role modeling is the primary way that children learn the values they will carry for life. Research also demonstrates that children are incredibly observant about their parents and learn to behave in the same ways regardless of what their parents say. We must act compassionate to our children and others, work to ease the suffering of others, and consider how others might feel in specific circumstances. If our kids never see us reach out in friendship to the shy mom sitting by herself in the bleachers, how can we expect them to seek out the lonely kid in the cafeteria at school? Demonstrate kindness in your everyday life and you will raise a kind teenager.
Discuss examples. Look for and point out examples of people being kind in books, movies, and the news. Discuss great leaders and thinkers that you admire and talk about how they helped and empowered other people. When your teen sees you admiring others who show kindness, they will begin to adopt those behaviors as well.
Encourage volunteerism. Community service exposes your teen to those less fortunate and helps them realize that they can improve someone else’s life. Volunteering provides youth with so many benefits, such as instilling a good work ethic, developing a sense of purpose and self-confidence, providing new perspective on life and gratitude for what you have, and offering hands-on experience in the real world. Local volunteering options include animal shelters, halfway houses, nursing homes, hospitals, churches, homeless shelters, soup kitchens or doing yard work for an elderly neighbor.
Embrace random acts of kindness. Encourage your teen to smile at people they pass or give a compliment. Explain that these types of actions may seem small, but they have the ability to brighten a person’s day or turn their moods around. Exposing your teens to ways that they can make a difference will teach them an important lesson in the value of kindness.