Compassion literally means “to suffer together”. Emotional researchers describe it as the feelings and motivation that arise in us when we are confronted by the suffering of others.
Most children when they are young have an innate sense of compassion, but the development of this important human trait 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 his or her daily life.
Here are some tips to enhance your child’s compassion capabilities.
1) Be a compassionate example for your children. When an opportunity arises –big or small– to be compassionate, take it.
2) Be sure to involve your children in kind acts. Emotional memories like baking cookies for shut-ins, giving a few dollars to a homeless person, helping someone in need, will be lessons that will last a life time.
3) Be genuine. Children are good at seeing though fake behavior. All compassionate acts should be real and based on true feelings for them to be effective and meaningful.
4) Be willing to confront and correct acts of cruelty that hinder your children’s ability to develop compassion. Help them understand that addressing cruelty is an act of compassion.
5) Be affirming to your children’s awareness of other people’s feelings and for their acts of kindness without rewarding them for their compassion. Rewards and too much attention for compassion can diminish it as a genuine act.
6) 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 it helps you and your children to know how to genuinely feel concern for each other and how to give real comfort to each other.
These teaching moments simply require a little extra thoughtfulness as you go through your day. You will be surprised the difference it will make in your children’s lives. Also, you too will become a more compassionate person.