Can we teach kindness to kids in preschool? Is it possible to impart the concepts of compassion and empathy to children as young as two and three? Along with academics, it’s essential that kids learn social and emotional intelligence, just like any other critical skills they will need to thrive in life.
Hold On! What IS Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?
Emotional intelligence, in essence, is the ability to identify and manage one’s emotions and the emotions of others. It typically includes three distinct skills:
-Emotional awareness (including the capacity to identify one’s emotions and those of others).
-The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks (like thinking and problem solving).
-The ability to “manage” emotions (including the ability to regulate one’s emotions, and the capacity to calm down or cheer up another person).
Children who learn to regulate their own emotions are sensitive to the cues of others. They develop the ability to empathize or “feel something,” from the other person’s point of view. This ability, consequently, allows them to work through emotionally charged situations in a constructive fashion. In the end, because of these skills, they are able to experience better interpersonal relationships throughout their lives.
But, where exactly should we begin such a daunting task?
HOW Do We Teach our Little Ones Compassion, Empathy… and to Simply be Kind(er) Human Beings?
1) Model the behavior you expect:
When kids observe adults being nice, they learn, in turn, to be nice. Pretty simple, right? Nevertheless, how many times have our kids also watched us just totally lose our cool? Hey, we’re all human. But, like it or not, kids will often act out what they see from adults since they are, essentially, adorably tiny sponges. No matter how brain-dead-exhausted we feel, we must always mind our (ever present) audience.
2) Patience, Patience, and (GASP!) More Patience:
Easier said than done, right? In the heat of the moment (and, dear lord, there are SO many moments in a day), it’s hard to stay calm, cool, and collected so as to respond in a manner that demonstrates the kind of behavior we would like from our kids. For the most part, parents manage to “keep it together” when everything runs smoothly and on schedule. But, once we hit a bump in an already-too-bumpy road and find ourselves in a situation where we need to discipline or set boundaries, that’s when we must call upon the gods of patience, take a step back, and TRY to tone down the desire to go Ka-BOOM!
3) LISTEN to the Little People:
Listening to US starts with US listening to THEM. Confused? Kids need to feel loved and acknowledged. They’re little people with some seriously big opinions. That’s why listening to them speak their minds (no matter how topsy-turvy their current train-of-thought might seem), gives them a sense of understanding. You see, they want to have meaningful conversations, too. So, sit down, look’em in the eye, and give them your undivided attention. In the end, it’s not really about the true meaning of Paw Patrol, the existence of fairy-zombie hybrids, or even what color unicorn poop is. It’s about understanding their perspective which helps to validate their feelings. In turn, actively listening will lead to more conscious conversations contributing to the development of their EQ.
Teach Resiliency by Providing Strategies
Conscious conversations and showing our kids we understand them allows them to learn problem-solving strategies. While toddlers and preschoolers often need a helping hand from parents, teaching them to communicate and problem solve are lifelong skills that are imperative for all kids to have as they grow. Teaching math might be hard (and painfully boring), but kindness, that’s an element ingrained into the very heart of us.