I’m sure you have met people that are completely and utterly out for themselves. That person that says “well it’s her own fault she is where she is, she should have done this or that or whatever”. They can’t see that people have actual circumstances in their lives that cause them difficulty. It’s like they have a complete lack of compassion. How did it get that way for that person? I’m not sure, but I feel sorry for them, (yes compassion for people that lack compassion). And what I definitely know is that I don’t ever want my kids treating someone that way. So I started thinking, how do you teach compassion? This is what I found out.
Actions speak louder than words.
First off, parents should model the behavior for their children. Even when they are not looking, or it seems that they are not paying attention we have to show compassion to the people that come in and out of our daily lives. They learn by our example, this is not new information. When we encounter that person cut us off on the freeway, instead of getting upset say, “maybe they just got some bad news and are in a hurry to help someone.”
Start a conversation.
Our kids deal with other kids all day long that are from very different circumstances. The way that our child perceives differences in people is the perfect cue for a conversation. If your child sees someone that is homeless start a conversation. “Why do you think he ended up in this situation?” And listen to what they say. Don’t judge or criticize what they have to say, just offer a couple different questions, start the conversation. You don’t need to teach the lesson in one day, just plant the seeds. Experts agree that fostering compassion in young people is among the best ways to prevent verbal, physical, and emotional aggression from taking root. Compassion is one of the best tools you can teach your children, because if they can delay their reaction to something someone does to them, the better chance they have at avoiding aggression.
Get a family pet.
One of the best ways to teach compassion is by having your children be responsible for a family pet. Pets teach our kids so many valuable lessons, responsibility, empathy, and unconditional love. It can also be a great way to cultivate compassion in your child.
Volunteer your family time.
Giving back to your community is also recommended for fostering compassion. Children that are exposed to be people that are struggling opens their mind. It puts a face to the stereotypes that others speak of. It helps them to understand that they are very lucky for the things they have and are able to feel empathetic towards people that have had challenges in their lives and see that they are real people with real feelings. Talk about your experience at the end of the day. Speak in non-judgmental tones using compassionate language. Educate your kids on the differences in people.
Show compassion – Especially to your children.
Hopefully this is a no-brainer. Show your children compassion. They are little and learning. Don’t be in such a hurry that you forget that. Be compassionate to the fact that they don’t have all the answers and they are trying to navigate in this world (a world that is much different than one we grew up in) without the benefit of experience. Speak to them in non-judgmental tones. If they are sick or having a really terrible day give them a little extra comfort. I remember when I was sick as a kid, my mom would put the pillow and blanket on the couch and make me Jello water (watered down jello that I could drink to soothe my throat). She used to buy me my favorite fast food for lunch. I’ll never forget the way she would gently touch my forehead with the care in her eyes. Let your children experience that.
Keep these tips in the back of your mind when you are talking to your kids. If you do chances are they’ll pass it on. And we can Stop Indifference and Teach Compassion 🙂