1. Be caring. There’s nothing more effective than casually modeling the behavior you expect to see in your children.
2. Give them responsibilities. Have them water the plants or feed the fish so they can experience what it means to truly care for something and what happens if they don’t.
3. Do random acts of kindness as a family. Show what it means to be caring just because, spontaneously and casually. Try an unannounced visit to a sick relative, or a spontaneous moment of conversation and a sandwich for a homeless person.
4. Do nonrandom acts of kindness. Discuss how you as a family can help others and then share the experience of volunteering regularly at a soup kitchen or visiting a senior center.
5. Validate their feelings. If they know you respect their emotions, they will learn to respect others’.Listen to their problems and complaints, show empathy, and guide them in figuring out strategies for coping.
6. Have them write thank-you notes. Skip form letters and other shortcuts. Your kids should express their gratitude in personal and specific ways for the gifts they receive, whether they do so on paper or electronically.
7. Discuss feelings—theirs, yours, and others’. Ensure that they have the words to describe emotions and that they know you’re open and eager to do so. If they hear you use words such as frustrated, disappointed, anxious, and the like, they will adopt them and use them, too.
8. Reach out to the alienated. There’s bound to be at least one youngster in your kids’ social spheres who is picked on, left out, or otherwise troubled. Make clear that you expect your kids to respect that child, and that they should expect all their friends to do the same.
9. Give gifts, not gift cards. Let your children choose what to get their friends and family members for their birthdays. Remind them that great gifts take time and thought. Gift cards are merely crutches.
10. Show what it means to make amends. “Sorry” isn’t enough and too many kids spit it out without meaning. Teach your kids what it means to truly right a wrong and make up for the shortcomings and lapses in judgment that we all sometimes exhibit.