Hot Topics     Home and Family    

What is kindness



Patience and kindness are always appreciated, but with many families spending more time together in close quarters, they’re essential

Karen Teig-Morris

Karen Teig-Morris (far left) of Walden, believes teaching kindness to her six and three-year-old daughters is an essential part of daily life.

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind, and the third is to be kind."
-Henry James

Kindness can be defined as "the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate." Tell that to a young child, however, and more than likely, you'll get a blank stare in return. Children, elementary-school-aged and younger, typically do not grasp abstract concepts like that of 'kindness,' until it's presented to them more concretely and tangibly. Instead of asking a young child, "what is kindness?" a better way to phrase such a question could be:

What does kindness look like?

"If you want to lift yourself up, lift someone else up."
-
Booker T. Washington

Many Hudson Valley parents choose to define kindness by what it looks like rather than its abstract definition. By doing this, they give their children models that they can look to and emulate each day.

Victoria Valencia of Wallkill has two adult children and two younger kids, aged six and three-and-a-half. She defines kindness as being nice, having good manners, and helping others. "It's how you treat people," she said.

Defining kindness using child-friendly language, as Valencia does, is essential to helping young kids develop a broader understanding of what compassion is. Many parents won't hesitate to tell a young child to be nice, but upon further reflection, perhaps parents should ask themselves if their child knows what that means.

READ MORE: How to teach children lovingkindness meditation

Why do kindness and empathy matter?

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle."
-Plato 

Jillian Eisloeffel of Pine Bush has two teenage stepchildren and two younger kids, aged six and five. She combines lessons on kindness with lessons on empathy, which is a tough, yet vital concept for young children to comprehend. "Kindness matters because everyone has their struggles," said Eisloeffel. "Something as simple as a smile can turn someone's day around."

In the case of Karen Teig-Morris of Walden, teaching kindness to her six and three-year-old daughters is an essential part of daily life in her home due to her need to help facilitate the development of her older daughter's social skills. Her daughter has high-functioning autism. "My daughter sometimes has a tough time seeing beyond herself," said Teig-Morris, "so we work extra hard to remind her about how her actions affect others and how she makes others feel."

Teaching empathy and kindness to children

"Never be so busy as not to think of others."
-Mother Teresa

Just like learning to read or add and subtract, acting in a kind, empathetic manner is a skill that typically requires both teaching and practice before achieving mastery. And even then, there are always be more lessons learned, more growth to be achieved, as well as making mistakes along the way. So how can parents facilitate this learning for our children?

While character education is typically part of the curriculum in most public schools, practicing those social skills they learn at school in the home is almost always beneficial to a young child.

Valencia has daily discussions with her two youngest children about the importance of kindness, using the context of sibling rivalry to help paint a relatable picture on the importance of showing compassion. She also models for them what caring should look like. "Even though they love each other and are inseparable, they do constantly pester one another," she said. "We have numerous discussions, as well as role-playing practice about sharing, talking nicely to each other, and apologizing when feelings get hurt."

Teig-Morris teaches her daughters what kindness and empathy truly mean by real-world applications of both concepts, particularly around the holiday season when children often get wrapped up in receiving rather than giving. "When Elf on a Shelf became popular, I felt I needed to find a different approach," Teig-Morris said.

Enter Eowyn, the Kindness Elf.

"Every day after Thanksgiving, Eowyn, arrives," said Teig-Morris. "From then until Christmas, my daughters find her each morning and read a message she leaves that we hope will inspire them to do a good deed. Some days we donate items to a shelter, others we make and send cards to people special to us. Some days we use kind words or attempt to make someone laugh in some way."

Eisloeffel teaches kindness to her children by emphasizing its importance through questioning. For Eisloeffel, the first question she asks her daughter after school each day isn't, "How was your day?" but instead, "How did you show kindness at school today?" This question is often followed up with an equally important one: "How did someone else show kindness toward you?"

As we teach our children to be kind to others, we cannot forget also to emphasize the importance of expecting kindness in return. They deserve it, too! 

Jill Valentino is a wife, mom of two, elementary educator, and lifelong resident of the Hudson Valley. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Medium @doublesmom77.



Other articles by HVP News Reporters


  • Hudson Valley Section of the NYS Birding Trail is Live!

    World-class birding opportunities across the state

    Birding is a fun activity that everyone can enjoy! From Montauk to Buffalo, New York is home to a vast array of amazing habitat that supports over 450 different bird species. Birding, or birdwatching, is one of the fastest growing outdoor recreational activities that can be enjoyed by all ages and experiences, plus it's a great way to get outdoors. read more »
  • Historic Hudson Valley Landmarks Reopen to Visitors

    Philipsburg Manor, Washington Irving’s Sunnyside, Union Church, and Kykuit open in May

    Historic Hudson Valley will welcome the public to Philipsburg Manor, Washington Irving’s Sunnyside, and Union Church beginning Friday, May 6; and Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate, beginning on Saturday, May 21. Visitors will be able to tour all four of these National Historic Landmarks through November. read more »
  • The dangers of using your pet's name as a password

    Aura research finds families vulnerable online

    Aura, the leader in intelligent safety for consumers, today introduced a public safety awareness campaign encouraging families to bolster their online safety habits. Marking the start of National Pet Month and World Password Day on May 5, Aura has released new data that found more than one-third (39%) of American pet parents have used their pet's name as part of their password for an online account. read more »
  • Strengthening support for new mothers

    2 companies provide research-based solutions benefiting the parenting journey

    Medela, the most trusted breast pump brand*, has announced a partnership with Expectful, a holistic maternal health platform for fertility, pregnancy, and motherhood, to offer breastfeeding and pumping education and discounted access to wellness support to new moms. The two brands share a commitment to improving the motherhood experience through research-backed products that can be trusted to truly make a difference. read more »
  • Poor oral health can cause serious medical conditions

    New Delta Dental report finds many are unaware of this connection

    Delta Dental released the 2022 State of America's Oral Health and Wellness Report, a nationwide analysis of consumer opinions and behaviors relating to oral health. Findings from the Delta Dental-commissioned research of U.S. adults and parents of children ages 12 and younger illuminate what they thought about their oral health and what they did to properly care for it at home and with their dentist during 2021. read more »
  • Memorial Day crafts for kids

    Teach your kids about this special holiday while you make something special

    The national holiday was established to honor those who have died in American wars. Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day. It originated during the American Civil War, when citizens would place flowers on the graves of those who had been killed in battle. read more »
  • Parents experiencing frustration over the national baby formula shortage

    NYS Division of Consumer Protection Offers Guidance

    New Yorkers need to be aware of unscrupulous practices from individuals who are using the baby formula shortages to scam desperate parents. These scams are typically rooted in online sales, and private sellers who are marketing cans for double the price knowing that big retailers have empty shelves and little information about when they may receive the next shipment. read more »
  • Leave young wildlife in the wild

    Human interactions do more harm than good to wild animals

    New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos is reminding New Yorkers to appreciate wildlife from a distance and resist the urge to pick up newborn fawns and other young wildlife. read more »
  • Top toy picks for spring & summer '22

    New list from the Toy Association & Clamour

    As kids and families gear up for a fun-filled summer of play, the "Best of Spring & Summer 2022 Influencer Choice List," presented by The Toy Association and powered by Clamour, today unveiled the hottest toys and games as voted on by top-tier toy and family content creators. Consumers can shop the list for toy ideas that will keep kids engaged all summer long – from playthings perfect for backyard fun to creative toys and games for rainy days. read more »
  • Girls Code Club Summer Camp

    Newburgh Free Library Accepting Applications

    The Newburgh Girl’s Code Club is now accepting applications for the Summer 2022 Code Camp. Newburgh Girl’s Code Club or NGCC is an initiative funded by Rowley Family Foundation Fund for Women & Children to address the issue of gender inequality in the technology field by providing youth access, education, and exposure to engineering skills in a casual club environment at the Newburgh Free Library. read more »