One reason parents think about teaching character traits to kids is so that they can help their children get along well with others. Being a good friend consists of so many virtues: truthfulness, courtesy, kindness, forgiveness, and the list goes on.
When we think about teaching friendliness, then, where do we start?
I think one of the best ways to teach our kids to be good friends is for us as parents to model what it means to be a good friend. Here are some ideas:
* Invite your own friends over and be a good host by offering them a seat, food they like, good conversation focused around their interests, etc
* Offer help to your friends and let your kids join you… such as preparing a meal for a friend who is unwell or carpooling
* Model sharing by always offering to let friends borrow favourite books or DVDs, or planning a shared picnic at the park
* Talk to new people you meet in a friendly way, and show your kids what it means to introduce yourself to others
* Wave to your neighbours and always be kind to people who come to your door – kids pick up on this behaviour and will copy!
* Never gossip or say bad things about your friends. If you have a disagreement, work it out respectfully (and in private when appropriate)
Here are some thoughts from several mothers about how to teach friendliness to young children:
“With both boys, we encourage them to greet those that help us in grocery stores and restaurants (cell phone off for parents). We deliberately talk about how to smile and talk loud enough for the other person to hear. We are also working on teaching them to show interest in others and ask others about themselves or how their day is going. For our boisterous son, we often discuss how “ninja” moves or growling will scare friends off and make him seem mean to others. For him, it is how he initiates play. For others, it is intimidating. We have had him look in the mirror as he is doing it to see what he looks like.” – Sheila from Pennies of Time: Teaching Kids to Serve
“We have a virtues class and we are preparing to cover friendliness. One of the activities we will do is to do a card/letter exchange with another class in another part of the world (in Gibraltar). So the kids will tell about themselves and learn about the other kids and so make new friends. Also, we made vases and took them to a senior center as gifts. The staff took us around and introduced us to residents that would appreciate it, and the kids got to hand them the vases and introduce themselves.” – Leanna from All Done Monkey
“I guess in our case it is from personal example and by reading books on friendship and family relationship (big sibling – little sibling attitude, friendliness towards family members), as well as getting inspiration from our Faith.” -Varya from Creative World of Varya
I believe that conversing about character traits while engaging in hands-on activities and exploring themes via storytelling are also powerful ways for children to understand and eventually exhibit the traits. Here are some resources that can help with this:
What other thoughts or resources do you have about how to teach friendliness to young children?
To browse more character building activities on my website, click here. You may also enjoy my ebook with 100+ activities in an easy-to-use checklist format, Playing with Purpose: Character Building Made Fun, or my book for families How to Build Character at Home.