Compassion is one of the top moral priorities that parents work to instill in their children. Compassion encompasses so many values we hold dear – love, kindness, caring, affection, thoughtfulness, and empathy to name a few. Teaching children compassion can start at a very young age and continues into young adulthood.
As you’re raising your little ones keep these simple and progressive ways of teaching children compassion in mind:
Teaching children compassion begins by your own example. Speaking kindly, acting gently and being attentive to your baby’s needs and desires shows her they matter. She is deserving of compassion. Also, act and speak kindly to others, whether they are family members or strangers. As you will discover, your baby is a wonderful mimic so the more positive examples of compassion you offer, the more likely the lesson is to sink in.
As you role play with your little one, encourage her to hug or pat stuffed animals. Applaud when she puts away toys gently rather than throwing them. Together tend to pets and other living things with care. This safe space is an excellent way to work on compassionate behaviors.
You may not realize it, but structure, discipline and respect have much to do with teaching children compassion. After all, if they are not expected to follow rules of decorum, have manners, behave appropriately and respect others (i.e. no name calling, hitting or talking back), they will not have a reference for being compassionate. Consequences are part of discipline and the most effective ones are more directly tied to the indiscretion.
Lend a Helping Hand
Moments when you can show compassion aren’t always going to be most convenient to you. Helping others in their time of need – even if it means going out of your way – is an excellent way to teach compassion. Taking a meal to a sick friend, driving a grandparent to a doctor’s appointment or volunteering in your community help your children understand the true meaning of compassion.
Identifying compassion in books, television shows, movies, plays and when you witness them in real life can further solidify your child’s connection with the emotion and act. Especially when your child displays or receives compassion or is moved by compassion in any way, this is a great opportunity for discussion.
We are all connected in a great big web with the chance to show gratitude and compassion. While compassion is certainly a global value, starting small in your community and building up is most effective for young minds. From the waiter who brings you food at a restaurant, to the mail carrier who delivers your packages, you can show compassion. Acknowledging and being thankful for others is a huge step in developing a compassionate outlook.
Sources: Parenting, Huffington Post and Psychology Today