As parents, we all have high hopes for our kids. We want them to grow up to be successful, kind-hearted, and of course, compassionate individuals.
But doing that isn’t going to be a walk in a park, considering the fact that we’re raising our kids in the digital age, where bullying and shaming doesn’t just happen in the classroom. It happens on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, and pretty much every corner of the Internet that people have access to.
You can protect your kids from the dangers of the Internet, but you can’t stop them from going online. Even kids as young as four years old are perfectly capable of using a tablet or computer to play online games or watch YouTube videos of Peppa Pig. And eventually, they’re going to find social media.
Most parents attempt to shield their children from these harsher parts of the world, but the best thing you can do is to be proactive. Learn how to raise well-rounded children who are equipped to deal with the more disappointing aspects of our society. By teaching them to be kind, accepting, and compassionate, as well as other positive character traits, you prepare them to be understanding of a world (and of people) who aren’t always kind.
Parents should really try to instill these values while their kids are still young—and trainable. Every single day, parents are presented the opportunity to be a role model for their kids to become kind, compassionate, and empathetic towards others. Take advantage of these precious moments and your kids will eventually learn and live these said traits.
Here are some tips for raising compassionate kids:
Walk the talk
If you want your kids to grow up with compassion, you must first walk the talk. Show them that you care for other people, too. It’s simple things like assisting an elderly woman across the road or being concerned with other people’s welfare that can heavily impact your child’s perception of being kind and helpful to others.
Remember, every parent is every child’s role model. As long as you’re practicing what you preach, you kids will eventually adapt the very traits you wish for them to have.
Teach them how to manage emotions
Say you and your child see a man getting splashed after stepping in a puddle of water. This is the perfect opportunity to educate them on the spot—tell them that it’s not something to laugh about.
During instances where your child gets in an argument with a sibling or a playmate, teach your child to react calmly and without aggression. Kids are easily wound up over the smallest things, but it’s never too early to teach them how to manage their emotions.
Teach them how to understand other people’s feelings
It’s important that you teach your kids how their feelings differ from other another person’s feelings. It can be as simple as helping them identify what other people may be feeling by observing their facial expressions or their body language. You can also teach your kids to imagine themselves in other people’s shoes, which can help them understand how other people are feeling. You can help them learn this by asking them how they would feel in the same scenario, and telling them that whatever they are feeling is the same thing another person would feel.
Treat children with respect
Your kids may be young, but keep in mind that respect is something that has to be earned and given to another regardless of their age. Let them know that you value their thoughts and consider their suggestions. It would also help to communicate with them the same way you want them to communicate with you. This can help them adapt and understand the respect that they should give to other people, too.
Acknowledge their kindness
Kids are always seeking their parents’ approval. The best way to show them that you’re happy with their actions is to let them know. Whenever they do something that shows compassion or anything that lives up to the values you wish them to have, acknowledge it.
Also, it wouldn’t hurt if you give them a little token for doing such a good job. A cupcake or even an extra 15 minutes of screen time can do the trick.
Make compassionate storytelling a family thing
Start a family ritual where you and your kids would share a compassionate story that happened during the day. It can be over your family dinner or before you tuck them into bed. This is a great way to teach your children how to recognize compassion in other people, and how to appreciate the kindness and compassion that they see around them on a daily basis.
Don’t trash talk
Again, walk the talk. Never make negative comments, whether your kids are around or not. You need to be consistent with the values that you teach your kids.
If you ever encounter rude people when your kids are present, be a good role model and tell them that getting angry or doing something equally rude is never the best solution. Remind them to first give others the benefit of the doubt and they’ll be more optimistic and kind to any other person that they might interact with.
Teach them to be discerning
While it’s always a good trait to always see the best in people, there has to be a balance. Teaching your kids to be compassionate is important, but it’s also important to teach them how to be discerning, so that they know which people have good intentions, and which ones do not. That way, if your child notices an adult acting in ways that they’re not supposed to, they can immediately tell you.
But don’t even wait for your child to say something. Be proactive about protecting your kids from people who may take advantage of their innocence and kindness. If you can, do a thorough evaluation of the people who are often around your child (such as teachers, school personnel, or daycare workers) by using a reputable background-checking site.
Volunteer as a family
Do activities that promote compassion. Volunteer and sign up for community projects such as tree-planting, neighborhood clean-up stints, toy-giving events in orphanages, or cooking for elders as social work. While at it, talk about how good—and rewarding—it feels to help other people, and how being of assistance to others is something that should come without a price.
Kindhearted and compassionate kids grow up in positive and nurturing environments. As long as you’re giving your kids a life that’s filled with love, kindness, and empathy for others, then you’re already doing a great job in raising them and setting them up for a successful future.