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Family dynamics

19th May 2021

The five social and emotional skills that teach children to be kind adults

Laura Grainger

how to raise kind kids

Because kindness in the world starts with kindness in the home

In a world that can often be a harsh and lonely place, people are what keep each other going. Kind people restore our faith in humanity and the wider world. How many times has your day been brightened by seeing a sweet video of someone helping a mother duck and her chicks avoid traffic to get to water? Or of a kid showing such helpfulness and affection towards their baby sibling?

The world needs more kindness, and it starts with us. Many US schools have adopted a method known as SEL (social and emotional learning) as a way of teaching kids how to be kind to themselves and others through managing their own emotions and actions. Developed in 1968 by James Comer M.D., M.P.H., of Yale University School of Medicine’s Child Study Center, SEL is used widely across American elementary and middle schools. But its “core competencies” can be developed by you at home.

Here are the major SEL elements to consider while trying to raise kind kids.

how to raise kind kids

Social awareness

Learning about the world around them and how different people experience it is important in helping your child to develop empathetic skills. To help them learn how to feel and show empathy, talk to them about how people in life or on-screen are feeling and what could be done or said to make them feel better.


Having a sense of self-awareness is what allows people to not only understand themselves, but to check themselves. In teaching your child to self-reflect, you’re helping them understand why they feel the way they do and what can be done about it. Ask them when feelings of anger or upset started and what happened beforehand. They’ll soon realise when they’re grumpy due to hunger or tiredness and so on.

how to raise kind kids


A greater sense of self-awareness will also lead to much better self-management. Once kids have an understanding of how they internally react to different people and situations, they’ll be much more capable of managing how they externally react. When you’ve talked through the timing and cause of an emotion, talk about solutions for the future. For example, if they’ve realised they’re hangry, tell them in future they should ask for a snack instead of being snippy to parents or siblings.

Relationship skills

All three of the above skills will help your child build and maintain relationships. At bedtime, show them their feelings and goals matter by asking them what they did that day and what mad them happy, sad, angry etc. This will build their communication skills, an essential element to healthy relationships.

how to raise kind kids

Responsible decision making

It’s vital that kids learn the importance of making decisions that best serve themselves and others. The best way to teach them this is to lead by example. Let your kids see how you make decisions deliberately, with other people taken into consideration.