9 Tips to Raising Compassionate Kids
Friday, November 9th, 2012
According to the dictionary, the word compassion is defined as "a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering."
The act of compassion is behind some of the most miraculous displays of love for humanity that have ever existed. Recently, MSNBC aired a special that indicated that today’s young adults – high school and college students – are less likely to "get' the emotions of others as compared to people of the same age group 30 to 40 years ago.
Today, we are daily made aware of acts of bullying by our young people. Chances are if you have a child in school, then you have had to watch your child endure some sort of bullying, possibly erupting from the lack of compassion that today’s young people feel towards others.
In short, kids are being raised to feel that the world is ‘all about me.’ Psychologists see a growing trend among children wherein they do not graduate from the typical toddler-like emotional notion that the world revolves around them. Is it the parents that are causing this? Is it the ultra competitive nature of the society that our children are growing up in that causes this lack of empathy and compassion?
Even more disturbing, is that according to The Humane Society of the United States, children are the rising demographic of those indulging in acts of cruelty towards animals.
The truth is that compassion and empathy for others go hand in hand. And it is compassion that will help to solve both world problems and individual ones. Children today are caught up in a cycle that seems to pit them against the world; friend against friend, in a winner takes all game of life. But when we lack compassion and empathy – who really wins?
It isn’t that bullying others and meanness hasn’t always existed. It is just that that bullying and meanness among children has never existed in the capacity that is apparent today.
The Dalai Lama has emphasized in many of his speeches how important it is for us, as parents, to teach our children compassion. He also asserts the fact that children need to learn about compassion from witnessing it firsthand, from their parents and caregivers.
The following tips will help you teach your child how to be compassionate!
1. Be a model of compassion yourself. Your children need to see you behaving with compassion toward the stray animal that wanders into your yard starving or to the homeless man standing on the corner. Your responses in those moments model the compassion your child will feel towards others.
2. When your children talk about other people negatively, try to help them understand what those people may be experiencing. Help them see that there are two sides to every story.
3. Volunteer. Give up half of your Thanksgiving morning to deliver meals to the needy who are homebound, and have your children join you. Spend a Saturday building a home for Habitat for Humanity. This helps kids see that not everyone in life is as lucky as they are.
4. Sponsor a child from http://www.compassion.com/ that is about the same age as your child. This organization enables your child to reach out to a child far, far away – and can help them develop a friendship through letters and computer contact that can prove invaluable in promoting compassion.
5. Teach your child to stand up to bullies, whether they are bullying them or other classmates. Talk about why the bully might be acting that way, and ways your child can show compassion to the bully to change their behavior. Try to avoid falling into the "That kid is just a bad apple and you should stay away from him,' trap that develops righteousness over compassion.
6. Encourage your children to say nice things to other people. One word of kindness delivered in just the right moment, can do wonders for another person’s spirit.
7. Help your child recognize the signs that someone else is in need of a helping hand and encourage your child to brainstorm ways to help.
8. Most importantly – be compassionate towards your kids.
9. Teach them how to care for, love, and be responsible for a pet – whether the pet is a goldfish or a dog. Animals can be great teachers of compassion for our children.
Share with us! How do you encourage compassion and empathy with your children?