Early in children’s lives we see the beginnings of compassion and empathy, but for those qualities to flourish and for the kids to become full ethical people, adults need to help them out. Read how to raise caring children!

Caring children can empathize with others, they’re more likely to be happier and more successful later on in life and have stronger relationships with others. It’s important to strive to cultivate children’s concern for others. As part of their “Making Caring Common” Project, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education has shared a few guidelines to raise caring, respectful, and ethical children.

The keys for raising caring children

1. Strive to develop loving relationships with your children

If you want your kids to be caring and respectful, then treat them that way! When children feel loved, they become attached to their parents, and that makes them more receptive to what parents teach them. Tend to their physical and emotional needs, provide a stable and loving family environment, show affection, talk about things that matter to them, and praise their efforts and accomplishments. Show genuine concern for your little ones and try to spend time with them.

2. Be a strong moral role model

Children learn by observation, they will repeat the things they see other adults they respect do. Make sure that you are practicing honesty, fairness, and caring! It’s important that when you catch yourself not being such a great role model in front of your kids, you acknowledge it and work on it. If it’s a mistake that affects your child, you can apologize and explain how you plan to avoid making that mistake again.

3. Make caring for others a priority

Get that message across! Even though most parents say that raising caring children is a top priority, it’s not something that is often talked about at home. Holding children to high ethical standards is a great way to prioritize caring because you teach them to do the right thing –even when it’s tough–, to honor their commitments, and to stand up for what they believe in. Also, explain to your children that they have to be respectful with their peers even if they aren’t behaving in a good way!

4. Provide opportunities to practice caring and gratitude

Studies show that people who regularly express gratitude toward others are more likely to be helpful, compassionate, generous, happy, and healthy. Children need to practice caring for others and being grateful, so encourage the expression of their appreciation for the people who surround them and contribute to their lives. Also, it’s good to teach your children to routinely help around the house and encourage them to express their gratitude and appreciation as part of their day.

5. Broaden your children’s circle of concern

Most children care about their closest family and friends. The challenge is to help children empathize and care about someone outside that circle, like in a faraway country or simply the new kid in class. Help your children be mindful about their decisions and how they impact a community and encourage them to reflect on the perspectives and feelings of those who may be vulnerable and in need of a friend. Help them to listen to the different opinions of others, especially those who can think differently to them.

6. Promote ethical thinking and getting involved in the community

Children are naturally interested in ethical questions. Talking about them and getting involved when there’s a chance can help them learn and grow. You can help your children become ethical thinkers by listening to and helping them think through and solve their ethical dilemmas. Encourage and provide opportunities for your children to support a cause they’re interested in. Try to talk about ethical dilemmas (for their age), ask them what they should do, and encourage them to take action against problems.

7. Develop emotional intelligence

Help your children develop self-control and learn how to manage their emotions. Encourage them to talk about their feelings regularly, learning to identify them and cope with them in productive ways. If you notice your little ones are having trouble identifying a particular emotion, like frustration or sadness, name it and talk about why they’re feeling that way. Teach your children that all feelings are okay and how they can deal with unpleasant emotions. Books can be great tools for that!

These seven guidelines are something that all of us can follow and encourage at home. If you want to continue reading on the subject and are looking for more specific tips about raising ethical and caring children, then we encourage you to read the article from its source on the Making Caring Common Project.