6 Ways That Parents Can Raise Compassionate Kids
by Trisha Leigh
In a world that feels as if it’s tipped a bit on its axis, raising kids seems like a more daunting task than ever before. But although parents today might struggle to navigate things like changing social norms and technology, there’s one thing that most of us want – and that is for our kids to be as kind as possible to others.
If that’s something you’d like to see happen at home, here are 6 tips for raising compassionate kids.
6. Model compassion and kindness yourself.
We know for sure that kids are always watching and always listening, and it’s important to remember that they will copy our good behaviors as readily as our poor ones.
Dale Atkins, co-author of The Kindness Advantage: Cultivating Compassionate and Connected Children says therefore one of the best things we can do is to be kind to others ourselves.
“It’s important for kids to be exposed to parents who are charitable.”
5. Be compassionate with your kids.
Kids are going to act up and struggle to manage their emotions. It’s fact of life, but according to Atkins, , we need to do our best to wait until we’re in private to correct them.
“You might have to jump in and say, ‘Whoa, we’re stopping this, and you have to come here with me.’ But you don’t admonish them in front of a bunch of kids. We can say, ‘I’m really seeing red right now, and I don’t want to talk to you right now because I have to think about what I want to say.’”
You and your child will be better off if you talk after you cool off, and he/she will be grateful you didn’t go off and embarrass them in front of others.
4. Have empathy for your child.
If you’ve got kids, you’re already aware that they mess up, and they do it daily. It’s all about learning how to be an adult, and as parents, we know it’s our job to teach them how to do that successfully.
Atkins says it’s important for parents to extend empathy to their children, even when they’re in trouble. A great way to do this is to not just tell your child they were wrong and why, but to try to get them to tell you how they were feeling before and after they did something worthy of punishment.
“Once a kid feels heard and like they don’t have to defend themselves as to why they did something mean, you can say ‘I know you wanted to hurt them because you were hurt. But what is another thing you could have done?’”
3. Teach compassion, not kindness.
Kindness and compassion often interact, but they’re not necessarily the same thing. if you want a compassionate kid, you need to encourage those qualities in interesting ways that challenge curious minds.
“Kind kids are interested in other people, they’re accepting, they’re not so judgmental. They’re willing to listen, they’re empathetic,” says Atkins.
If you see your child being kind and/or compassionate, make sure you call it out, talk about it, and compliment the behavior.
2. Express gratitude – out loud.
Kids won’t understand that they have plenty to be grateful for unless parents say, out loud, how grateful they are for their lives and everyone in them.
Atkins reminds parents to say thank you to the people in their lives, to appreciate people who deserve it, and point out the things you’re grateful for on a daily basis.
“Kids should know that gratitude is part of the appreciation of life, because when one is appreciative of one’s life, one is generally going to be kind to other people.”
1. Be intentional about books and reading.
Young children who read books that feature characters with lives different from their own are more open and compassionate toward those with foreign experiences, says Atkins.
“There’s very compelling research that reading to children helps them feel connected and have empathy. They gain an understanding that other people have mental states, thoughts, beliefs, and preferences that are different from their own, and that underscores empathy.”
Put these in your back pocket and then take a deep breath – you’re doing your best!