Mommy Minute: How to teach your child to care for others

Updated: Feb. 6, 2017 at 10:04 AM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Every parent wants their child to be thoughtful and caring, but children are frequently exposed to violence and crime.A recent study on domestic violence found that many high school boys thought it was ok to strike a girlfriend if she angered him.

How do we teach our children the importance of caring?

UAB Clinical Psychologist Josh Klapow says, "Researchers used to believe that a sense of real caring about others came as people grow into adulthood. But now studies are finding that children can show signs of empathy and concern from a very early age. Many studies have shown that children respond quickly and with concern to a classmate, friend, family neighbor, or to a stranger, who is being hurt. It's well known, too, that children have a natural affinity for animals and a desire to help them."

Some Simple Strategies for Parents:

  • Be honest about caring: Klapow says, "Be very frank and honest about caring vs not caring behavior- don’t sugar coat it. And make it important so they understand it is important 'look, joey is crying. He's crying because you took his toy away. That wasn't a very nice thing to do!' Or 'it hurts the cat when you do that; that's why he scratched you. It isn't kind, and I don't want you to do that anymore!"
  • Role modeling: Klapow says, "If you are consistently caring and compassionate, it's more likely that your children will be too. Children watch their parents, and other adults, for clues on how to behave. Keep in mind that if you say one thing and do another, your children will pay a lot more attention to what you do. The old warning 'do as I say, not as I do' simply does not work, particularly when it comes to teaching about caring."
  • Formalize caring: Klapow says, "Another thing you can do is try to find organized ways for your children to get involved. Let them know about places in the community where they can volunteer, and encourage them to join. Many volunteer organizations and churches have special programs for young people and even for children."
  • Reward for kindness: Klapow says, "Just as it's important to let them know how strongly you feel about their unkind acts, it's important to let them know how highly you regard their kind ones. For instance: 'i saw you take care of the boy who fell on the playground. That was very kind of you, and it makes me feel very proud.'"

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