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Raising Compassionate Children

July 11th, 2017     By Boys Town Contributor

Parent-Child Relationships, Parenting Skills, Respect, Teens, Tweens, Understanding Behavior

Compassion literally means “to suffer together.” Emotional researchers describe compassion as the feelings and motivation that arise in us when we are confronted by the suffering of others.

Most young children have an innate sense of compassion, but the development of this important feeling must be nurtured if it is to survive into adulthood. This is where parents come in.

So, how do you go about raising a compassionate child?

The most important way is by allowing your child to routinely experience compassion in their daily lives.

Here are some tips to enhance your child’s compassion capabilities:

1.Set a compassionate example for your children. When an opportunity arises — big or small — to show compassion, take it. Whether it’s helping someone push their car to the nearest gas station when they run out of gas or calling a relative you haven’t talked to in a while, your child will take notice.

2.Involve your children in kind acts. Emotional memories, such as baking cookies for the sick or elderly, helping someone in need, or giving a few dollars to a homeless person, are lessons that last a lifetime.

3.Be genuine. Children see though fake behavior. All compassionate acts should be authentic and based on sincere feelings for them to be effective and meaningful. Ask your child what they would like to do in a situation where they can show compassion toward someone else and why they want to do that particular kindness. This helps children process their feelings and decipher what it means to be genuine.

4.Confront and correct acts of cruelty that hinder your children’s ability to develop compassion. Addressing cruelty is an act of compassion. Children see what is happening in the world around them, so when a teaching moment arises, take time to discuss what happened and how it could be done differently with more compassion and integrity.

5.Affirm your children’s awareness of other people’s feelings and their acts of kindness without rewarding them for their compassion. Rewards and too much attention for compassion diminish the sincerity of the act. Tell children that what they did was very kind, and say “good job,” but avoid rewarding them with toys or treats.

Make compassion a part of your family routine. Each day, start and end with a simple act of kindness for each other. Compassion strengthens your bonds as a family because you and your children demonstrate genuine feelings of concern for each other and learn to comfort each other.

These teaching moments only require some extra thoughtfulness as you go through your day, and you’ll be surprised at the difference it will make in your children’s lives as they — and you — become more compassionate.


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