Raising Compassionate Children

Posted on July 16, 2019 : Posted in Legacy Academy, Parenting Tips

You may hope your child takes over the family business one day, or that they will become a doctor or join the military. You may imagine what it will be like to have grandchildren or wonder if your adult kids will live nearby. But really, the hope of every parent is that their children will grow to be responsible and kind people. And while life holds no guarantees, there are ways that you can intentionally instill these character traits in your children even when they are young. Today we will explore what it takes to raise compassionate children, those who can see the world through others’ eyes and show kindness to everyone.

What is Compassion?

Compassion is literally defined as sympathy and concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others. Practically, this looks like a willingness to notice those who need help and to help those in need. Therefore, compassionate kids are helpful, thoughtful, and generous.

Compassion and Child Development

A child’s ability to be compassionate relies on their awareness of others. Small children are still developing a sense of self and are not yet ready to consider the perspectives and needs of others. This isn’t a character flaw! In fact, it is very normal and important to child development. Compassion is “caught, not taught” in infancy and toddlerhood, as children learn about natural boundaries and emotions by watching others. Toddlers begin to express feelings more clearly and therefore to understand the language of emotions. By the time a child is in preschool, they are ready to begin more intentional coaching about empathy, kindness, and compassion.

Questions as a Gateway to Compassionate Children

Children love to ask questions about the world around them. They are natural noticers, seeing things that adults often look over or consider unimportant. The probing questions they ask are excellent gateways to teaching compassion! For instance, if your child notices someone’s differences, take the opportunity to explain both the answer to their question and the appropriate way to discuss differences. Say something like, “Yes, he is in a wheelchair. That probably means he can’t walk very well on his own. He also looks about your age! I bet he likes some of the same books you do. Would you like to ask him?” This approach helps your child see the people around them as individuals, with interests, thoughts, and feelings. The more a child relates to others, the more likely they are to engage with them in kindness.

Model Acceptance

Around late preschool and kindergarten, children begin to form more exclusive friend groups. While this is a natural development, it can lead to hurt feelings and exclusion. As your child sorts through the many things that friendship means, encourage and model an inclusive and accepting mindset. Interact with people of all different types and encourage your child to play with children who seem lonely. When someone seems sad about being left out, ask your child to remember a time when they felt similar feelings. At the same time, continue to support your child’s close friendships by explaining that having close relationships doesn’t require the exclusion or rejection of others. And of course, always treat everyone you encounter with respect and acceptance. As always, your actions speak louder than your words.

Raising a compassionate child is not easy work, but it is worthwhile. By consistently modeling acceptance and kindness while also encouraging your child to consider others’ needs, you create an environment where compassion can grow. The good news is it doesn’t require any special skills or tools for you be kind. When you show compassion, you teach your child to do the same. And compassionate children can change the world! If you are looking for childcare that is built on a foundation of respect, excellence, and kindness, consider Legacy Academy. Call or visit your local location for more information.