At times, being a parent can feel extremely overwhelming. It can feel like so much work to help children be the intelligent, happy, ambitious and overall successful individuals we want them to be. The good news is that research shows that there is one quality—caring— we can parent toward that gives our kids all those other benefits and more.
1. Work to develop loving and caring relationships with your kids
Children take their parents’ lead. They most effectively learn to treat others with care and respect when they are treated with care and respect themselves. Schedule regular one-on-one time with your kids. Make an effort to have meaningful conversations. Let your efforts to prioritise them be their inspiration for prioritising deeper relationships with others.
2. Be a strong moral role model
Children desperately need role models. As their parent, you are your child’s first teacher and the best model of all the virtues your kids need to experience life as a gift. Make sure to practice honesty, fairness and caring in your own life. Of course, nobody’s perfect, so when stress or frustration gets the better of you, practice humility, self-awareness and honesty by showing your willingness to apologis e and make a genuine effort to change.
3. Make caring for others a priority
A big part of prioritising caring is holding children to high ethical expectations. This can be done by teaching children to honour their commitments, to do the right thing even when it is hard and to stand up for important principles of fairness and justice. It’s critical for you to insist that your kids always speak and act respectfully, even if it makes them unhappy and their peers aren’t behaving that way.
4. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude
We’ve all heard the saying “practice makes perfect,” or at least, “practice makes progress”. Why not create opportunities for your child to practice caring and gratitude? Expect your children to participate in the household chores. Regularly start conversations with your children about the caring and uncaring acts they see in their daily lives or on television. Create a ritual of expressing thanks at dinner or bedtime. Studies show that people who cultivate the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate and forgiving.
5. Expand your child’s circle of concern
Children naturally empathise with a small group of family and friends, however it is important to teach your child how to “zoom out” and care about those outside that circle, such as a new child in class or others in their community. Encouraging your child to consider the perspectives and feelings of the hurting people around them. Ask them to imagine what it would be like to be that person. Then, give your children simple ideas for taking action, like comforting a classmate who was teased or reaching out to a new student.
6. Promote children’s ability to be ethical thinkers and positive change-makers
Children love to grapple with ethical questions. Help children be the leaders in modelling virtue by discussing various moral dilemmas. For instance, “Should I invite a new neighbour to my birthday party if my best friend doesn’t like her”? Situations such as this provide the perfect dialogue to develop the skills of ethical thinking and leadership in your child.
7. Help children develop self-control and manage feelings effectively
Even the most caring child can become overwhelmed by feelings of anger, shame, envy, etc, which can cause them to lose the ability to care for others. It’s important to teach children that, while these feelings are okay, there are ways to express feelings that are useful and helpful and ways that aren’t. Teach your child to identify his or her emotions, as well as teaching them how to resolve conflicts.
Source: Parenting With Grace: The Catholic Guide to Raising (Almost) Perfect Kids.