Raising Compassionate Kids
We all want to raise kids who care about others, who exhibit compassion and empathy for others and work to help those in need. Not only is compassion a desired trait for developing a quality character, our future as a society is dependent on our ability as people to pull together an act in the greater good (in other words, to exhibit compassion). Given the significance of this issue, how can we foster compassion in our kids?
- 1. First and foremost, kids learn by observing the behaviors of others. Choose wisely the people that your kids are allowed to interact with: ensure that the people in your kids’ environment model compassion, especially when choosing a babysitter. Further, ensure that your own behaviors reflect compassion. When a stranger slips and falls at the park, do you giggle or ask the stranger if he/she is ok? If a child is alone and crying in an aisle of the grocery store, do you walk on by (after all, it’s “not your problem”) or do you try to help the child by taking him/her to customer service so that his/her parent(s) can be paged? If you are wanting to watch a DVD, and your neighbor comes over to tell you that her husband has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, do you tell her that you’re busy or do you (without complaint) listen to her, comfort her, and offer her assistance?
- 2. Ask your kids questions to help them understand what someone else may be experiencing. For example, if you hear that a person in a neighboring community has been abducted, you may ask, “What do you think his/her family is feeling right now?” If your kids tell you about a conflict between two of their classmates, ask them, “What do you think made them do what they did?” Don’t cast judgment; just seek to understand the flows of logic of both combatants.
- 3. Talk to your kids when inconsiderate or self-centered behaviors are observed in themselves or others. Help your kids understand what behaviors are compassionate and what are not. Help them understand the difference and the long-term impact on the individuals and the society for both compassionate and self-centered behaviors. Again, don’t cast judgment: just seek understanding.
- 4. With your kids, read books and watch movies that reinforce your message.
- 5. Choose heroes wisely. The people most worthy of adoration aren’t those who will do anything to attain wealth and status . . . instead, they are those who genuinely care for others.
- 6. Get your kids involved in selfless activities. Can they donate some of the money from their piggy banks to a local fund-drive in support of a terminally ill child? Can they help you sort donations for a local non-profit organization? Can they help you serve Thanksgiving meals at a local soup kitchen? Opportunities for selfless giving are everywhere: your community should have a host of opportunities for you and your kids to become involved in selfless activities.
- 7. Adopt a pet and have your kids be responsible for attending to the pet. By teaching about the responsibilities and rewards of caring for someone else, kids can learn that chores (feeding, cleaning, etc.) can come with tremendous rewards (the love of Fido, Felix, etc.). (Side note: you will want to supervise the pet’s care and provide guidance and assistance as necessary.)