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Watch and learn: The power of teaching kindness by example

Psychologist Laurel Kramer suggests teaching kindness by demonstrating compassion to animals. 

August is Role Modeling Month, and mental health experts say children learn how to be kind by watching others' behavior.

In this week's Family First segment, KRCG 13 spoke with SSM Health psychologist Laurel Kramer.

She said compassion isn't something that necessarily comes naturally: "Kindness is an action. It's not something that we're born with, it's something we have to learn."

According to Kramer, that's because at a very young age, children start watching grown ups for cues about how to act. "Age 2, that's when children begin to understand they are a separate individual from other people," she said. "So you can start role-modeling kindness early."

She said one easy way to educate kids about kindness is to act it out by caring for pets. "It's a good idea to teach your children to feed and water the dog or the cat when it's hot, or bring them in from the outside when it's hot or cold," she said.

If mean-ness or thoughtlessness does happen, she suggested allowing kids to do a "do-over." "A do-over is when children go back to their sibling or their parent and say 'I'm sorry I hurt your feelings, this is what I want to say.' That way, you're sharing kindness again," she said.

Kindness won't always be reciprocated, but Kramer said that shouldn't stop adults from trying to show compassion. "Don't let that be a problem when you're doing it as an adult, because you're role modeling for your children," she said. "We're not born to be kind - we have to teach our children how to do that."

Watch KRCG 13 next Friday for the next Family First segment - we'll talk to a dietitian about how taking your kids to the grocery store and involving them in the kitchen can create healthier eating habits.

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