Every parent secretly worries their baby will grow up to be the next Hitler, Charles Manson, or just the bully at school. While all children are individuals with their own personalities, parents have a tremendous amount of influence. There are many things a parent can do to teach sensitivity, compassion, and concern for others.
A compassionate child is a gift to the world:
1. Set a good example. Demonstrate compassion and your children will mimic your behavior. Are you compassionate with others? Or are you harsh and inconsiderate? Your child looks to you for cues regarding how to behave and view the world. Be the best example you can be.
- What are the logical conclusions your child would reach from observing how to interact with others?
2. Point out when others are compassionate. When you observe someone showing compassion, talk about it with your child. It can be an event in everyday life or a character in a movie. It’s as easy as saying, “Wow, the princess is being so nice to that boy. She really cares about his feelings. I bet he likes that.”
3. Spend time with your child doing things for others. Take your unneeded clothes to Goodwill and explain the reasons to your child. Encourage your child to donate toys so less fortunate children can have toys, too.
4. Encourage your child to help others. Perhaps you notice your child helping his sister to put her toys away. Acknowledge it and praise your child. Behaviors that are rewarded are more likely to reoccur.
5. Get a pet. A pet provides an opportunity for a child to take care of another living creature. Most children love animals and a pet is excellent practice for demonstrating compassion. Dogs and kids become fast friends and enjoy looking out for each other.
6. Discuss feelings. Start a conversation about feelings whenever the opportunity arises. Share your own feelings too. Explain how you feel after a bad day or when something good happens.
- How did you feel when mommy told you that it was time for bed?
- How does your brother feel when you take his toys?
- I saw your friend, Alice, crying after school today. What happened?
- How do you feel on Christmas morning?
7. Set rules at home that show respect for others. The behavior you demand at home influences their behavior outside the home. Set standards at home that encourage compassion. A few ideas include:
- No hitting.
- No name-calling.
- Everyone helps with dinner – setting the table, washing the dishes, and so on.
- Share and take turns.
8. Assign chores. Chores provide a sense of responsibility and demonstrate the need to do things for the common good. Chores help the parents and create a more pleasant home environment for everyone in the family. Give your child a few chores to do and explain why they’re important.
Parents have a great responsibility to teach compassion at home. It’s not always taught at school. Almost every child can list 25 bad behaviors on command. But schools fail at teaching children how to treat each other.
Teach your child to be compassionate to others. It not only benefits your child, but it also benefits the rest of the world, too. Take a few minutes each day to teach your child this important skill and mindset.