It’s tempting to scold your child for forgetting to say please or thank you, but many parents don’t realize that their children may not have learned considerate behaviors yet. If not, it’s time to give them the opportunity to show off their sweet and caring sides to family and friends. “Providing opportunities for children to learn considerate play are integral to kids learning these behaviors,” says Melody Brooke, family therapist in Richardson, Texas. By modeling considerate behavior and showing your child how to empathize with others, you will be molding his character for the future.
Your child learns considerate behavior from her most prominent role model – YOU! As her parent, she looks up to you and observes your behavior on a regular basis. “Recognize that children mimic the behavior they witness,” says Brooke. “If you are considerate to others and especially, to them, then they will learn that this is how you treat other people.”
So, jump in and lend a hand when you see people in need and you can bet that your child will learn to do the same.
Children have the opportunity to exhibit considerate behavior in a variety of social situations. From the school lunch table to the jungle gym at the playground, he is immersed in group play that begs for considerate behavior. Take advantage of these opportunities by inviting friends over to participate in a group activity, such as baking cookies together or playing games, suggests Brooke. “While they are playing, encourage considerate behaviors by commenting on those behaviors in the children,” she says. “Phrases such as ‘Gee, that was really nice of you to give Billy a do-over’ will reinforce considerate behaviors during play.”
Read Body Language
Your child or teen may often hear you say, “It’s not what you said, but how you said it.” Use these opportunities to teach your child to read the body language of others to be more considerate. When in public places, ask your child to observe others and tell you if he knows how a person is feeling. A frown could indicate that someone could use a special smile from your child or a sharp tone could indicate that someone else is frustrated. Show your child that body language is an opportunity to offer a person the support he needs. This may also help them foster stronger friendships in the future. “Children who are considerate of others end up with more friends and a better social life, facing less social stress than peers,” says Brooke.
For your children to demonstrate considerate behavior, it’s helpful for them to understand the struggles of others. Ingrid Kellaghan, founder of Cambridge Nanny Group in Chicago, says that for a child to be compassionate and considerate, he must first be taught empathy. “According to the National Association for the Development of Young Children, modeling empathetic behavior and pointing out situations that call for empathy, parents can facilitate sympathetic responses in their kids,” she says. “For example, if you and your child see someone who is hurt or sad in real life, on television or a book, talk with your child about how that person must feel.”