One of the most important values you can instill in your children is compassion. As your child navigates the world through school and play, they will come across various situations that test their character. Instilling compassion, in essence, provides many crucial learning opportunities for your impressionable child.
Teaching your child to be kind, gentle, and compassionate will allow them to grow and flourish as they grow older. Here are some steps you can take to do such.
Model Positive Behavior for Your Child
Merriam-Webster defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” Instilling compassion in your child is a trait that comes from the top down. As your child learns and grows up, they will look to their parents for support and guidance. On top of that, they also look to their parents when modeling their behavior.
A piece penned by Michigan State University notes that this is called “observational learning” — wherein children learn based on observations of the environment and of others’ behavior. MSU also refers to this as the “monkey see, monkey do” approach. With this in mind, parents can help in instilling compassion by modeling positive behaviors for their children.
Simple actions such as saying thank you to a cashier, donating money to the less fortunate, and putting things back where they belong can pass on to your child when they see you do such. It also goes hand-in-hand with the idea of positive reinforcement. If you see your child partaking in compassionate behavior, giving them signs of approval — such as a high-five or a simple “Good job!” — will encourage them to do it even more.
Essentially, being a good person to all that you come in contact with, practicing virtuous behaviors, and doing good deeds will inevitably be passed down to your children.
Instilling Compassion Through Involvement
Getting your children involved in their school and community is another great means of instilling compassion in them. Whether it’s through clubs or sports, entering any form of activity in school will thrust your child into a position to work with others. And with goal-oriented clubs and sports, your child must work together to achieve said common goals with their teammates.
In turn, if your child sees a teammate having trouble and is struggling to fulfill their duties, it is a great time for compassion to be demonstrated — especially if they’ve been inundated by positive behavior from their parents. Your child will experience the “sympathetic consciousness” firsthand and will feel the intrinsic need to help their partners out.
On the other hand, your child can experience compassion from the receiving end if they’re the ones struggling and could use help.
Instilling compassion in your child transcends the classroom, too. Having your child partake in prayer and church services can highlight to your child the plight of others — thus raising awareness and stoking that intrinsic compassion. Your child will learn to express sympathy and compassion through prayers and donations at the same time while becoming closer to God.
Actions Have Consequences
If you see your child partaking in behavior that is not conducive to compassion, it’s important to let them know their actions are not okay.
Don’t let rudeness slip under the radar — act upon their behavior. If you find them being mean to another classmate or talking back to a respected elder, educate them on why that behavior won’t be tolerated. Teach them to see through the eyes of others and let them feel the weight of others’ emotions.
These are often teachable moments for your child. Take the time to sit and talk with them. Understand why they partook in the actions they did and teach them how to circumvent that behavior for next time. It may highlight an underlying issue within your child and can even instill even more “sympathetic consciousness” in yourself as a parent.
Partake in Charitable Events
One of the most important things you can do while instilling compassion in your child is to partake in charitable events together. Organizing a food drive and donating cans of food to a local shelter is not only a great bonding experience, but it’s also a great way to educate your child on the plights of others and spark that intrinsic motivation to help community members out.
Raising money and awareness for charitable causes like disease prevention and other illnesses will also educate your child further. Thrusting your child into these environments can prove to be beneficial as not only are they reaping the intrinsic rewards, but they are also helping others out and learning firsthand from their parents how good, virtuous deeds can build compassion.