Do we really need to be teaching compassion to our kids? I think kids are born with an almost innate sense of compassion and all we must do is nurture it along. When my son was two and I was pregnant with his little sister, we were working on the house we were going to move into and a window slammed down on my hands. I was in extraordinary pain. My son was, without guidance, solicitous and worried. He wanted to help and wanted to know what he could do to make it better. I hadn’t taught him to react that way; it was instinctual.
If our kids have an innate sense of compassion — and even if they don’t — we can help them feel more compassion by teaching them empathy, understanding, and tolerance. Here are a few ways to do it.
Model the Behavior
Teaching compassion to kids starts by demonstrating compassion yourself. When you openly communicate with your kids the way you feel about something that has happened or let them see you showing kindness to another, they will learn to mimic that kind of behavior. Unfortunately, the opposite can also be true: If they see you being cruel or heartless, or hear you use words that are hurtful, they will learn to behave that way.
Talk about Compassion
Talking to kids about compassion is more difficult, because it is an abstract concept. Use questions to help them connect and identify with what others are feeling: “How do you think it made your sister feel when you broke her doll?” or “How would you feel if someone pushed you down on the playground?”
Praise the Behavior
When your kids show compassion, do kind things for others, or feel sad for someone, praise them for being so kindhearted. Ask them what they think they could do to help, or how they can make things different. It’s never too early to start teaching your kids to have compassion and to be empathetic and tolerant.
By modeling the behavior you want your child to emulate, and talking to him about compassion, and praising your child when he acts with compassion, you can truly make this virtue a part of your child’s life.
How do you teach your child to be compassionate?