Step Require Your Kid to Make Amends for Cruelty

Martin Hoffman's research found that parents who call attention to the harm done by the child and encourage her to make reparations can increase their kid's kindness. It's also very important for the child to learn that although once she has been cruel, the action can't be taken back, she can ease the other person's discomfort or hurt she caused by making some kind of amend. Here are a few ways kids can take responsibility for their unkindness:

• Apologize. The apology must be thought through, said sincerely, and ideally delivered face-to-face.Younger children must learn to say, "I'm sorry," and mean it. Older kids should learn to apologize without adult prompting.

• Do a kind deed. If you kid's attitude has affected another family member, he or she is required to do a chore for the offended party, which relieves that person of a duty or helps this person in some other way. A younger kid could help set the table; an older kid could vacuum the house.

• Set a rule. "One unkindness equals one kindness."When-ever a child says an unkind comment, she must turn it around and say something kind and caring to the recipient. A word of caution: the turnaround rule works only if kids know what kind comments are and only if it is consistently enforced. For some kids, writing the kind comment is far more comfortable than saying it.

• Perform a service. For an older child who did an especially egregious cruel act, doing a service might be an appropriate consequence. Find a local organization that uses kid volunteers such as the Boys and Girls Club, a church group, a homeless shelter, or the hospital, and then clearly spell out to your kid the number of hours he must provide to "work off" his mean deeds.

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