Research has shown that individuals who are kinder tend to experience happier and more positive emotions, form better relationships, see an improvement in their overall health, and are optimistic about the future.

Instilling positive values like empathy and compassion starts young. Here are 8 empathy-boosting ways, though not an exhaustive list, on how parents can help nurture our children’s development in this aspect:

1.   Teach them to show appreciation, be it through words or actions, such as a written thank-you card.

2.   Expand their library of emotive words to better express themselves and help them understand what others are going through.

3.   Encourage a culture of complimenting and appreciating each other.

4.   Involve your children in voluntary efforts to be exposed to different plights, which in turn can be good learning points on how to express concern and show gratitude. It also helps them to be more tolerant towards children who are different from them.

5.   Set boundaries for certain behaviours, and enforce discipline if the boundaries are crossed. Discipline/correct by showing your children a better way to handle their issues and emotions, instead of lashing out at them.

6.   Rope in your children to help around the house by assigning them with age-appropriate chores.

7.   Use everyday situations to communicate and emphasise learning points, such as a scene from a movie, etc.

8.   Get involved in their digital world to teach them appropriate cyber behaviours, and caution about posting inappropriate content or making unkind comments online.

However, there is something else that goes beyond teaching—as children look up to and emulate their parents, what you say or do every day speak volumes to your children:

Inspire as a role model. You have the influence over your children, so use it to foster their ability to be empathetic. Show them through your daily actions and words what it’s like to show empathy and express concern.

Be consistent. Are you practicing what you are preaching? Avoid confusing your children with contradictory words/actions, such as bad-mouthing others in front of your children. Even if you have made a mistake, apologise and explain to them about it.

Maintain a loving and firm demeanor. Extending understanding conveys your respect for your children’s feelings.

Read here for an interesting take on a parent’s dedication to teaching her kids about kindness.