It is important to teach children the importance of care and compassion. This way, they can grow into adults that show these traits in their own lives as well!
A nurturing environment helps shape who we become; parents imparting kindness on kids will set them up for success later on down the line.
Everyday compassion makes us feel connected with other people—their pain as well as their happiness.
You can raise a child with a feeling of compassion in 17 easy ways
Model caring behavior yourself
It is important for children to see that caring and compassionate people exist in their lives. They learn values best when they have a person who models these behaviors, rather than hearing about or being told how things should be from an adult authority figure.
A piece on modeling self-compassion in The Washington Post may have put it best, stating that adults teach children how to act and react in their world from an early age “whether they intended to or not.” In other words, it’s all about behavior! Children mimic, and that holds true where compassionate behavior is concerned.
Teach by example
To help your child develop caring feelings, you must be a good role model for him or her. Kids learn the most from our daily behavior, not just what we say to them directly. That’s why it is important that when you care for others—including people outside the family—you do so in front of your children.
You can practice this at any time of day by keeping life in perspective and being aware of how you tend to react when something goes wrong or doesn’t turn out as planned.
If you tend to get easily upset about little things, try observing yourself when irritation arises and asking yourself if getting angry is worth it, given the bigger picture in life.
This short mindfulness exercise can help keep you steady in the face of the ups and downs that are part of family life.
Before you help others, take a moment to ask yourself whether this is something you really want to do or just feel obligated to do.
If it’s the latter, stop—don’t look for ways to get out of it! By helping only when we want to, we teach our children by example not to be servile toward people they perceive as more important than themselves.
When your child hurts themselves or another kid at school or in the park, try saying “I know how you feel” rather than “Are you okay?” This helps them understand empathy—the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings in order to show caring.
This is not easy to learn. As is conveyed in a helpful article at SymptomFind however, there are several ways we can strive to teach our kids empathy. The article specifically recommends that kids be made to read stories to empathize with characters, as well as record their own feelings in journals and collages. It also notes that parents should teach children to feel for others through volunteer work (which I’ll touch on again below!).
To start with though, help your kid by using statements that begin with “I imagine that you feel….” or “I think you are feeling….”
A simple way to show kids how important it is to be thankful for what they have is by asking them periodically, “What did somebody else do for you today?”
Children need to know the answer because when we think about all the help other people give us, an automatic reaction of caring and appreciation arises in us.
Practice mindfulness of breath and body
If you don’t want your kids to lose their ability to concentrate when under stress, teach them early on how to maintain awareness of their breathing throughout the day when times are tough. Putting one hand on their belly and one on their chest, have them breathe from the diaphragm.
Ask them to pay attention to how it feels as they inhale and exhale, paying particular attention to the pauses at the end of each inhalation and exhalation. If they are having difficulty doing this on their own, help guide them through a few times until they learn how.
Help your children put themselves in another person’s shoes
What would you feel if you were pushed off a swing? Whined at? Deceived? Teased? Not invited to a party? Failed a test? Kids need to know that others may not be cruel-hearted but just don’t know any better—they haven’t been taught about how their behavior affects others. Or they may require help themselves so that it’s not fair to blame them for what they do.
The more your children feel connected to each other, the less likely they will be to bully or harm one another.
Teach gratitude through service
Regularly sharing our time and efforts with those who are less fortunate than we are is the best way I know of instilling a sense of gratitude and faith in our children—as well as humility, which is essential for true compassion.
When kids volunteer at a local homeless shelter or retirement home, for example, they quickly learn that life can be very difficult for others and that this isn’t just something on TV newscasts but also can happen to real people.
Point out all the things you have in common
Kids growing up in a pluralistic society need to know that every person has something in his or her life—from eating breakfast, taking a shower, walking the dog, combing hair—that they share with others regardless of their ethnic background.
Point this out often so it becomes second nature to them. If we’re unable to see our similarities and focus only on our differences, we’re setting our children up for deep divisions and misunderstandings.
Show kids how to be good citizens who respect authority
It’s important that your child knows that there are consequences for not following rules and social norms such as not doing homework on time or disrespecting others.
And let her know that we don’t need to agree with someone’s behavior to respect him or her as a person and acknowledge how hard it was for them to own up and say, “I’m sorry.”
Teach kids the art of giving compliments
Complimenting your children teaches them about authenticity—that genuine praise feels good to receive and gives others pleasure. It also shows our appreciation for others and how much we like them and care about them as individuals.
As adults, we should give more credit where credit is due: We need to acknowledge those people who do their job well, keep promises, come through in a pinch, apologize without grumbling—all those acts that help us out when we’re stressed out (or just bored with our daily routine).
Teach children that we all have the potential to be angry and how to control this impulse
When we help kids learn about their emotions, especially anger, they can see when it’s coming on so they don’t overreact in situations where such behavior is inappropriate.
They also learn what not to do when angry: Don’t hit or slap; don’t throw themselves on the floor kicking and screaming; don’t call each other names or say things they really mean and will regret later; and for heaven’s sake, never threaten another person (or animal) with physical harm!
Talk about the importance of boundaries and privacy
There are times when we need our alone time—for reading a book, to do some writing, or just for thinking—and this is equally important for kids.
Let them know that they are free to express their thoughts, both positive and negative, but that discussing private matters with others without permission is prohibited.
Children should feel comfortable coming to us with questions about the opposite sex—we can help them learn how to be safe, responsible people in intimate relationships by being open and honest about sexuality so they don’t hear it from friends or find it on the internet.
Start a dialogue about fairness
We must teach our children to not only say “please” and “thank you” but also “that was unfair!” We all have an obligation to treat one another fairly. Liberty is not freedom from responsibility or conflict; it’s the freedom to speak out, complain and seek a solution when we don’t feel like someone has treated us fairly. It means that everyone who works should receive fair pay for his or her time and effort.
Make sure kids know there’s no excuse for cheating
We must teach our children how important it is not to lie, especially by breaking the trust of those they love and care about: family members, teachers, and their peers. They also need to see real-world consequences so they know why lying isn’t worth it: You’ll be embarrassed in front of your classmates; you may lose your sports eligibility; your parents will be angry with you for disappointing them.
Instead of nagging, give specific guidelines for chores
Siblings should pitch in to help out around the house; this teaches them love, respect, and how to work together as a team. Chores are important because they’re about learning self-sufficiency, responsibility, and conservation. According to a VeryWellFamily post on this same subject, in fact, chores are even good predictors of which kids are more likely to become “happy, healthy, independent adults.”
We also need to teach kids that different tasks require different levels of effort.
For instance, making your bed every day is not the same as vacuuming or mopping your room—and doing just one chore regularly will make it easier for you to do all of them regularly so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
It also helps if we show our children how much quicker their assigned chores can be completed when everyone pitches in by setting an example first.
Help kids learn about other people’s cultural backgrounds and customs
We can help children feel more connected to others by learning about new cultures and communities, which will make them better citizens of the world.
They may not always like or understand their peers’ values or traditions, but this is where empathy starts: by listening and trying to see things from another person’s point of view. We also need to teach kids how to be considerate—and that consideration goes both ways.
It’s especially important for adults not to express personal opinions in front of their children when it might influence these younger minds into believing something untrue.
Get kids involved in local politics and current events
If we don’t participate in the process, we risk losing our power as voters and taxpayers; we also need to teach our children how to be involved. We should help them learn about their rights as citizens, which includes keeping up to date on what’s going on in their community.
There are also many ways to participate outside of casting a ballot—from joining organizations like PTA or Scouts to volunteering for charities and attending town meetings where officials make decisions that affect our everyday life.
Raising a child is one of the most rewarding, but also difficult jobs. We can make it easier by teaching them these important values early on in life so they grow up to be caring and compassionate adults.
With our help, your kids will know how to treat others with respect and empathy no matter their gender or background—and that’s something worth celebrating!