Our goal as parents is to raise caring children in a society that continues to grow more self-centered every day. Children can learn empathy, respect, and compassion as they observe the example of their parents and when they are personally treated this way. Teaching our children these qualities and virtues is possible.
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”Aesop
I honestly thought I would have better luck swimming across the Atlantic Ocean than for one of my children to learn about compassion.
Now, let me clarify, I’ve been a mother for almost a decade and with 4+ kids, our children have ranged in personalities and characteristics. There’s almost nothing I haven’t seen.
Until I learned this one lesson.
One cold winter morning, I took my children to our local mall playground area. There were other children playing on the toys and enjoying their time.
A few minutes later a small toddler fell off one of the toys next to my child.
My heart skipped a beat. What was she going to do?!
She tenderly bent down and started talking to this toddler, “It’s okay, your mommy will be here soon.”
I was shocked and proud at the same time.
While I was teaching my children about compassion and empathy through lectures and discussions, it wasn’t until they had the opportunity to be with their peers that they applied these virtues.
Our modern world can be challenging, especially as we try to find moments of kindness around us.
As parents, the secret to raising a caring child starts in the home by showing love and kindness to each other.
How To Teach A Child To Care For Others
We all want our children to have kind hearts, to be compassionate to others, and become the best version of themselves that’s humanly possible. Simple examples of compassion can lay the groundwork for creating caring and compassionate children.
Here are proven ways to teach a child how to care for others:
Give Your Child The Opportunity To Volunteer
Children are never too young to volunteer. As a hospice chaplain, I remember the one thing that made my patients smile was seeing children.
And like the example from my child, while you teach your children the skills they need for helping others, being empathetic, and compassionate, your kids need to be given the chance to apply these virtues with their peers and in society.
They are taught by you but learn by doing.
Volunteering enables children to be part of something bigger than themselves, while having a positive impact on the community.
- Caring for others. Engage your children in service opportunities available in your community. Just Serve is our family’s go-to place for service ideas in our community.
- Learning to serve in the home. Talk with your child about the many ways they can serve their family. From picking up scattered toys, giving hugs, and playing nice with their siblings, there is a plethora of ways your child can be invited to serve.
- Choices. Give your child the opportunity to pick what service project they would like to do. This can be as simple as writing cards for nursing home residents, organizing a toy drive, or being a kind friend to a fellow classmate.
Teach Them How To Be A True Friend
Studies have shown that children who learn how to develop empathy and cooperative understanding among their peers have a better time working with others and understanding their viewpoints.
How many times has there been a moment of crisis in your family that’s left you feeling downhearted? What do you say to yourself? Now, if your friend was in the same situation, would you tell your “friend” what you told yourself?
Learning to listen, being a shoulder to lean on, and extending full understanding comes when children are treated in this manner.
- Talk with your kids. Ask your kids about their friends, their day, and about how they felt in those situations. You can help your child process their emotions and give them a deeper understanding to their personal relationships.
- What about peer pressure? Children need to understand that “being a good friend” doesn’t mean saying “yes” to everything. They need to learn that being a good friend often means saying “no” and not giving into peer pressure.
- Diversity. You can help your child learn about different religions and cultures to give them a better understanding of the diversity that exists in our world.
Practice And Promote Good Manners
Today’s world is not as simple as the old black and white movies where kind gestures such as saying please and thank you, giving up your seat on the bus to someone who needs it more, or holding the door open for others, is expected.
Sadly the opposite in today’s self-driven world is true.
When parents model good manners and praise their children for showing such behaviors, children will increase in their desire to want to be good.
For example, instead of saying, “You’re so thoughtful, Jill!” You should be specific and say, “Thank you for giving a flower to our neighbor. Your thoughtfulness put a smile on Mrs. Carl’s face.”
- Please and thank you. Teach your children that being good members of their community include being kind to others. Everyone is going through something difficult. This is no excuse to release feelings of frustration and anger into the world. Children can begin learning politeness by using words such as “please,” “thank you,” and “I’m sorry.”
- Consideration for other’s feelings. One of the questions I ask my children to help them process their emotions is, “How would you feel if this happened to you?” From this question they’re able to gain a better understanding of empathy and consideration for other’s feelings.
- Inclusion, especially in our differences. Invite your children to expand their circle of friends by learning to appreciate others differences by being a friend to the friendless and listening to other’s viewpoints, while respectively sharing their own.
For More Information On Teaching A Child To Care For Others, You’ll Love This Book!
We think about good children as being compassionate, empathetic, and generous. However, it seems that, in our fast-paced, individual-driven society, kindness is fading and the pressure on parents to raise socially conscious, empathetic, and caring children can feel overwhelming.
In Teaching Kids to Be Kind, Rachel Tomlinson draws from her professional experiences to provide 365 inspiring strategies to help children and families practice kindness every day of the year.
These are practical examples children can experience every day to help them develop empathy, regulate their emotions, and improve their mental and emotional health.
How Do You Raise Moral, Caring Children?
As a parent, you want your children to make good choices. You hope they’re the ones who will befriend the lonely, stand up to the bully, and be a voice to those who feel overwhelmed and silenced.
But how do you raise a child with a moral compass? The answer is through you by the example you set for your children.
All children have an inner desire for familial connections. They need to feel loved and like they belong.
When they have these emotional connections, you can mold, teach, and help them develop the desire to be a good person.
Take a few moments each day with your child to share something specific that you’re grateful for.
In our family, this is done around the dinner table as we eat our food. Or, you can make this tradition be part of your nightly prayers.
- Encourage sharing: Be specific with your child on something you’re grateful for. Encourage them to share with you something specific they’re grateful for in their lives.
- Keep a “kindness jar.” Whenever you or your child experience an act of kindness, write the person’s name and act of kindness down. Put these slips of paper in a jar. Then, at the end of every week, pull the jar out and share all the good everyone in your family did for each other. This will help everyone see how every family member contributes, and even encourage their desire to do better around the home.
- Write thank you cards. Your child doesn’t have to wait until their birthday or Christmas to write a simple “Thank You” card to someone they love. They can write to a friend, teacher, or grandparent. When you help your child look for caring acts of kindness in others, they will begin to learn that these attributes are desirable and should be in their own lives.
Teach Your Child Sincerity
There’s a difference between saying, “You’re a good person” and “I love how you took the time to befriend your lonely classmate. That must have taken courage and a great deal of love inside of you.”
The second compliment will reinforce those good qualities in your child that will ultimately help them becoming more caring.
Praise your children for those actions that are genuine, kind or caring, showing they’ve really thought of others before themselves.
- Make service part of your family’s life. Teach your child that service is more than giving money. Service can take many forms, including saying hello to someone who is lonely, sharing their school supplies with a classmate, or playing kindly with their siblings.
- Genuine compliments. Help your child practice giving genuine and specific compliments to family members, cashiers, and others in their community.
- Anonymous. The best acts of service are those that are anonymous. When children understand that service should be done because they want to, not because they have to, they will develop the desire to put out good in today’s world. You can encourage them to find ways to serve their classmates or family members through secret acts of service.
These Are Perfect Service Project Ideas For Your Kids! 500+ Ideas!
The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects: Over 500 Service Ideas for Young People Who Want to Make a Difference!
Teach Them Their Moral Duty
Children need to understand that ultimate truth exists and there is a difference between right and wrong.
Without this moral duty, or compass, to guide their actions, how can we expect them to navigate some of the more difficult choices in life? When they understand their moral duty, they will understand compassion and empathy.
- Teach them about God. Children need a foundation to base their truth and moral compass. When they understand that we are all children of God and are brothers and sisters, they will see others through new eyes. They will find greater purpose and meaning in their acts of service and love.
- Taking action. Encourage your child to take action against problems that affect them. Let them know they can share with you how they are feeling, especially if they feel overwhelmed or unsure of how to approach a situation.
- Stand up. Give your child the chance to join causes that they’re passionate about and that affect them. They can help children in developing countries obtain a better education, help their peers in foster care with supplies they need, or lend support to another cause they feel passionate towards.
How Do You Explain Compassion To A Child?
Children learn best through personal experience and watching the example of their parents and peers.
Compassion motivates people to help those around them, whether they’re meeting someone’s emotional, mental, or physical needs.
Through your example, your child can learn compassion and develop this trait as you invite them to help serve their siblings, neighbors, and their community.
Praise Specific Acts Of Compassion
Acknowledge specific acts of compassion your child performs will help reinforce this desired trait within themselves.
For example, you can compliment on their daily choices, such as, “It was really compassionate when you let your brother share that toy with you.” Or, “It was really kind of you to help me with the dishes, without being asked.”
Point out the positive impact of your child’s action, “Because you helped me do the dishes after dinner, we are able to start family games night sooner.”
Talk About The Emotional Side Of Compassion
Compassion is more than the act of alleviating distress when misfortune falls on someone. True compassion is the feeling inside our hearts that fuels our sympathy and desire to help.
Talk to your children about the heart-felt feelings that they’ll develop as they practice this virtue.
In their young age, they might have a hard time relating to other people’s situations and distresses. But, as they mature and serve those within their age group, they’ll compare their life experiences with those they’re serving and begin to understand the immense need we all have to show compassion to each other.
- Talk through their experiences. Ask your child questions, such as, “If this situation happened to you, how do you think you would feel?” Give them the opportunity to mentally place themselves in someone else’s situation. By doing this your child will begin to develop compassion and sympathy.
- Be consistent. As you teach your child the virtue of compassion, be an example to them of this trait. Give them opportunities to watch you care for an elderly neighbor, help a young family, or volunteer time to help in your community.
- Teach them the difference. There is a difference between being a compassionate person and being a push-over. Your child needs to be taught that compassion comes because they have the desire to make a difference, not because they “have to” do something.
Raising a caring child takes time, patience, and kindness. As parents, when we show acts of kindness in our family and community, we are laying the foundation for teaching our children how to be compassionate and caring kids.
Micah Klug is a wife, homeschooling mother to five children, and author. She teaches time-tested solutions to help parents remember what matters most in life, including strengthening their home, faith, and family relationships. To learn how a child who grew up in an authoritarian home is now creating an environment of peace and joy in her own home visit this page. If you want to contact Micah, send her an email here or email [email protected]