It’s a tough, uncompassionate world out there. Why? Because empathy and compassion do not come naturally to humans. We have to be taught to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and to see the world from someone else’s eyes.
Here are 3 ways to raise a compassionate child:
Encourage your child to think about what others are feeling. When your son or daughter tells you a story about another kid at school, ask them, “How do you think he/she felt about that?” Imagining other people’s feelings is not instinctive for young children, and as parents, we need to encourage it.
When you catch your child showing kindness or compassion, point it out. A lot of you spend way too much time telling your kids how smart, popular, and good looking they are instead of how good they are. When you see your child being caring, you need to tell them how touched, impressed, and proud you are.
Find books and movies where compassion is the plot. There are some unbelievable stories out there of people doing wonderful things, even though it could cost them. That’s the key part - “even though it could cost them”. You see, a hero is not someone who bats a thousand. A hero is somebody who puts themselves on the line for someone else. That’s why we call soldiers, firefighters, and police officers heroes; they put themselves in harm’s way for someone else. Make sure your kids are absolutely clear on what a hero really is.
Last week, I put the question to my Facebook followers: “How did your parents teach you compassion?” Here are some of their responses:
Laurie: “My mom was a great role model of showing compassion. She gave us the ability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and painted for us a mental picture of what might be going on with someone struggling with something. I was always an emotional person, so I took everything she said to heart.”
Barbara: “I don’t know how they taught me, except for their daily lives. Too many examples to even document. They did something right because the four of us daughters became people of service - a missionary, social worker, child placement officer, and a nurse.”
Karen: “In a small town in the early 60s, men who were considered hobos, who rode the trains, would sometimes find their way to our backdoor looking for food. My mother would always make them sit on the back porch, not in the house. But she would always fix a sandwich or a meal for them. Once I was watching one who was sitting on the stairs facing away from our house eating hungrily. Mom made me come away from the door to give him privacy. She stated that he had a hard life and it was difficult for him to ask for food and that we should be compassionate and not stare at him while he ate. A lesson in compassion well learned.”
Laurie: “My earliest memory was when I was in 6th grade and the little girl across the street had a father-daughter dance, and she couldn’t go because she didn’t have a nice dress. My parents went out and bought her a full outfit. The night of her dance, her dad didn’t bother to come home. So my dad took her. My parents always did for others. I have that habit, and so do my kids who are all young adults.”
Nina: “My mother only taught me to be selfish. I never wanted anyone to see how I felt, so I used her example as the opposite of what to do.”