1. Encourage peaceful conflict resolution at home.
According to this child development study, “when parents actively advocated peaceful conflict resolution to their kids, on average those kids acted less aggressively, even if they attended violent schools.”
2. Practice empathy exercises with your child.
Here’s one from Mary Gordon’s important book The Roots of Empathy: “In one of the exercises in class the students look at illustrations of children their own age and talk about how the people in the pictures are feeling….When we do the classroom activity in which children look at a picture of a sad girl and talk not only about why she might be sad but also about how they could help her, they often attribute her sadness to loneliness and a lack of friends. The solutions invariably include taking steps to bring the girl into their circle of friends.”
3. Check in with your child’s feelings, and encourage open discussion.
The journal Social Development found that kids who had stronger verbal skills or seemed closer and more in-tune with their mothers at age two were also more likely to share at age four, as long as they’d also demonstrated a strong understanding of emotions at age three. Taken together, the results suggest to the researchers that “children’s abilities to detect and reflect on feelings” are strongly linked to kind, helpful—or ‘pro-social’—behavior.” In other words, asking your child “How do you feel?” will make it more likely she’ll think about her feelings—and the feelings of others.
contributions from Frankie Thomas and Ilya Tsinis