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6 proven ways to raise kind kids

Because kindness goes a long way.

how to raise kind kids

Perhaps one of the most important lessons we can teach our children is the art of having empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It's getting down to their level without patronizing, judging or feeling sorry for them. We are our children's first teachers and they look up to us more than we know. It's our responsibility to teach our children empathy through our actions, words and the way we treat others.

Here are six ways to create empathy in your home, mama:

1. Practice active listening.

Busy schedules and that never-ending to-do list can prevent you from being totally present with your child. Set up times to check in with your little one throughout the day. Cultivate active listening by putting away distractions and practice rephrasing what your child says so they know you are listening.

For example, if your child just had a fight with a close friend, you might say, "I hear that you are feeling frustrated and sad. I hear that your friend didn't play with you at school today. How can I support you with this?"

Remember that your child doesn't always need a solution—just your open heart and a listening ear. As they talk through difficult situations and feelings, they may come up with a solution themselves!

2. Validate their feelings.

You've probably heard adults say to children, "Enjoy life now because once you're an adult..." Comments like that undermine your child's feelings. Their feelings matter and they are not less than yours just because you have more responsibilities.

When your child starts crying because they don't want to share their toys, their hamster dies, or a toy breaks, support your child by validating their feelings. You can connect with your child by using simple phrases like, "I can see you are having some big feelings" or, "It's okay to cry. I know how much you loved your special toy."

Your child may choose to be alone, or want a hug to feel better. Other kids might benefit from drawing a picture of how they feel, or writing about it in a journal. Responding with compassion and understanding will help your child learn to recognize and value their own emotions, as well as others' emotions.

3. Start with yourself and model kindness.

The seemingly inconsequential interactions we have with our children are important. Kids will remember them. Think back to your childhood and how your parents, caregivers and family members interacted with you. Can you remember a certain tone, look, or words that hurt you?

Pay attention to how you interact with your child. Remind yourself that you can choose to respond to your child with love, kindness, and open-heartedness. When you snap at your child, or react in a way that you regret, remember to be compassionate with yourself. Always admit your mistakes and apologize.

4. Identify kindness when you see it.

The world is your classroom. When you see people doing the right thing—being kind, empathetic, or just good-hearted individuals—point it out. When your child cleans up their toys, helps set the table, or takes turns with a friend, remember to let them know that you are proud of them!

It's also important to support your child in understanding kindness by discussing what kindness looks, sounds, and feels like. First, ask your child to brainstorm words you can say to others that are kind. Next, think about actions you see in your home and community that are kind. These might be simple acts like opening the door for someone, offering to help an elderly person carry their groceries to the car, or donating toys to your local thrift store.

Encourage your child to think about how these words and actions make them feel. Do they feel connected? Proud? Like their actions matter? Discussing what kindness is (and isn't) will help your child (and the rest of your family) build their kindness muscles.

5. Avoid saying people are "good" or "bad."

When we label typical child-like behaviors "good," our children may avoid expressing their other feeling in the future. Try using language like, "Oh, wow, it looks like you are enjoying what you are doing," or, "You are so intelligent, look how you figured that out!"

If your child is expressing challenging behaviors, you may say, "I see that you are feeling upset right now. Is there something I can do to help?" or "Are you sad? Do you need some time alone or a hug?"

6. Embrace differences.

Show your child that differences should be embraced and celebrated by reading children's books that display inclusion with their illustrations, words and narratives. Purchase books written by indigenous authors and people of color. Follow disabled, autistic and LGBT authors. The point is to show your child that they can connect with different kinds of people when they show up, practice active listening and value everyone's perspective.

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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