Teaching Preschoolers to Be Kind

Two little boys playing together on the floor
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When my son turned 3, he struggled with how to be nice to his peers.

"Be kind!" I found myself saying over and over.

Then it dawned on me that kindness might be an ambiguous term for him. So I found images that depicted unkind behavior: hitting, pouting, taking toys and yelling. I also located images that demonstrated kindness: sharing, hugging, smiling while picking up a toy and high-fives. I mixed up these images and printed them.

What God says about kindness

Later, my son and I read a couple of verses about the importance of treating people with kindness. I read Galatians 5:22-23, emphasizing that the power to be kind comes from God's Holy Spirit and that choosing kindness would keep him out of trouble. Then we read Proverbs 11:17, and I mentioned that kindness would also bring good things his way.

Next, I showed him the sheet I'd made. "Are the kids on this paper being kind or are they being unkind?" I asked. I pointed to each picture, and he told me whether that child was being kind or unkind.

Continue the conversation

As we talked more about kindness, he learned what was expected of him. As an incentive, I told him that if he could be kind to others for a week, he would get a reward because "a man who is kind benefits himself" (Proverbs 11:17).

Seeing what it meant to be kind helped him share toys, take his turn, use his hands to hug, not hit, and talk without yelling, which was hard. He would be ready to yell at his brother, catch himself, and talk instead. By the end of the week, he had even helped his brother pick up toys and shared his snack without being asked.

"That is being kind, right Mommy?" he'd say.

The trip to the ice cream store was one of his best. He piled on the hot fudge and sprinkles as we celebrated his new understanding of how to be kind to others.

This article first appeared in the August/September 2016 issue of Focus on the Family magazine and was originally titled "Pictures of Kindness." If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get this publication delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.
© 2016 by Melissa Richeson. Used by permission.

Next in this Series: Helping Your Child Respond to Rudeness

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