Encouraging Your Children to Be Compassionate


Teaching compassion is a difficult concept. Can parents really force their kids to learn a feeling? The answer to that question is complicated. While compassion is something that happens internally, external influences can play a big role in how your kids think, feel, and behave. 

Children who witness compassion at home are more likely to display compassionate behavior themselves. 

In this article, we look at how you can encourage and educate your kids on how they can be compassionate to others. 

Teach By Eexample

The most effective way to encourage your children to be compassionate is to model compassionate behavior yourself. Children— particularly young children— learn most effectively by example. While you can’t teach them a feeling, like empathy, you can routinely display behaviors that are the byproduct of it. 

Consider involving your children as much as you can in activities that you feel are rooted in compassion. If you volunteer, think about taking them with you. If you participate in compassionate activities they can’t be a part of, explain what you are doing and why you are doing it. 

Children who see their parents or guardians displaying compassionate behaviors will be much more naturally inclined to behave that way themselves. 

Don’t Shelter Children from Problems

Parents have a natural impulse to shield their children from sad or unpleasant things, this is easily justified. Children may not have the emotional or intellectual capacity to appropriately understand serious issues, which may lead to fear or anxiety. 

But how can a child learn compassion if there are no issues to feel compassionate about?

Certainly, your young children do not need to know the grizzly details of every war. However, they probably can handle learning that people in X country have been dislocated or lost access to stable food supplies. 

Explaining this, particularly in cases where you can point out a small way your family can help (“country X doesn’t have access to food right now. That is why we are dropping off this donation to the refugee center”) may foster empathy and compassion. 

Reward Compassionate Behavior

Parents want their children to do good for its own sake. While that is a noble ultimate goal, it’s not a realistic expectation when it comes to ingraining behaviors. Children, and for that matter, adults, respond to reward-based incentives. The human mind is quite literally wired to experience stimulation in response to rewards.

You don’t have to buy your children a lavish gift for sitting with the lonely kid in the school cafeteria. Rewards can be as simple as spotlighting a good deed. 

The more you acknowledge compassionate behavior, the more your children will begin to see it as the right thing to do. 

Point Out Compassionate Behavior in Others

You can also help your children learn compassion by spotlighting compassion in others. Role models play a significant role in adolescent development. By encouraging your child to admire good deeds, you may also help them feel more inclined to perform them. 

You can do this in big ways, like teaching your kids about social figures who have struggled and sacrificed for the sake of compassion. You can also do it in smaller ways. When you see people being kind in public, point it out to your children.

Not only will this reinforce the value of compassion, but it might also help your kids contextualize it with specific behaviors. If they see that helping an elderly person put their cart away at the grocery store is kind, they might be better prepared to respond compassionately when they find themselves in a similar situation. 

Point Out Uncompassionate Behavior

Your household probably already has behaviors that are reprimanded or punished. Being uncompassionate, however, can be difficult to monitor because it is typically not an action, but rather a lack of action. 

You don’t necessarily have to have a punishment ready every time your child fails to hold the door open for an old person. You can, however, point it out when they behave in a way that leaves room for improvement. Discuss what happened, and what they could have done differently. 

Pointing out uncompassionate behavior helps ingrain behaviors. It may also make your child feel more motivated to look for opportunities to display compassion in the future. 

Consider Limiting Screen Time

Psychologists are only just beginning to understand the impacts of excessive screen time on children. Many of the results are troubling.

High instances of screen time usage are associated with heightened instances of depression, anxiety, and social disconnect. All three factors, the latter in particular, may make it difficult for your child to display compassionate behavior. 

Most experts recommend a maximum of two hours in front of screens, a number that is sometimes met, or even exceed during the school day. 

Monitor your child’s screen time to help protect their mental and emotional health. Not only is this important for fostering compassion but it is also a vital element of overall adolescent development.

About Author

LaDonna Dennis

LaDonna Dennis is the founder and creator of Mom Blog Society. She wears many hats. She is a Homemaker*Blogger*Crafter*Reader*Pinner*Friend*Animal Lover* Former writer of Frost Illustrated and, Cancer...SURVIVOR! LaDonna is happily married to the love of her life, the mother of 3 grown children and "Grams" to 3 grandchildren. She adores animals and has four furbabies: Makia ( a German Shepherd, whose mission in life is to be her attached to her hip) and Hachie, (an OCD Alaskan Malamute, and Akia (An Alaskan Malamute) who is just sweet as can be. And Sassy, a four-month-old German Shepherd who has quickly stolen her heart and become the most precious fur baby of all times. Aside from the humans in her life, LaDonna's fur babies are her world.

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6 months ago

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