Raising Compassionate Kids: Ways to Model Compassion in the Home

By: Dr Robyn Silverman

We often hear that parents must serve as role models for their children. "Monkey See, Monkey Do." Therefore, it's important for parents to demonstrate ways to be compassionate at home. After all, when parents show kindness, their children will learn kindness. When parents show intolerance, impatience, and injustice, children will learn to behave in the same ways.

Here are some hands-on examples of ways parents can model compassion so that their children will follow:

1. Teaching Compassion for Other Family Members

Scenario: It's the weekend. Mom and Dad have been doing chores all day long. Both are tired. When they decide to call it quits for the day, Mom offers Dad something cold to drink and they sit together on the couch. Dad massages Mom's feet after a long day.

Effect: Little Matt sees that both Mom and Dad feel for and understand each other. Little Matt learns what empathy and compassion look like. He also sees the positive effects such kindness has on others.

Learning Moment: Talk to Matt about the importance of showing compassion to others in the family. Even if you're tired or even if you're a child, you can still show kindness is easy, helpful ways. These acts of kindness make people feel good inside' both the receiver and the giver!

Participation: Let Little Matt bring a cookie for Dad or let him massage Mom's fingers. These little ways of contributing to others will send the signal to Little Matt that he can make others feel good by showing compassion.

2. Teaching Compassion for Animals

Having pets in the home is a great way to teach children compassion.

Scenario: Polly the cockatoo is making a raucous in her stand. Mom checks her out, sees the seed bin empty, and the water cup empty. Mom cleans the bird's dishes, pours some seeds into the food cup and replaces the water with fresh, clean water.

Effect: Little Matt understands that if pets need and deserve attention.

Learning moment: Explain to Little Matt that the bird became noisy because it couldn't fend for itself and she was hungry. Just like when he was a little baby, and he was hungry, he would cry. Mom treats Polly with the same kindness she shows to the rest of the family. She is kind and affectionate. Little Matt learns to treat Polly the same way.

Participation: Give Matt the job of "Polly's food checker". When able, he can put seeds and pour water into the container.

3. Teaching Compassion for Playmates Scenario: While playing in your backyard, Little Matt's friend, Tommy, bruises his knee and starts crying. Mom cleans out the cuts, blows the pain away, and places antiseptic on the wound to make sure that it doesn't get infected. All this time, Mom explains to Matt what she is doing.

Effect: Little Matt sees that his friend is in pain but also sees that his Mom is working gently to take the pain away. Again, Little Matt learns empathy and compassion.

Learning Moment: When our friends get hurt, we need to stop what we're doing and take care of the. That means helping them when they trip or getting an adult when they need some extra assistance.

Participation: Allow Little Matt to help you "blow the pain away". He can get a cotton-ball out of the container of a band-aid and ointment out of the closet.

4. Teaching Compassion for Those In Need

Scenario: One of the local charities called and they're doing a big clothing drive. Mom and Dad start putting their old or unworn clothes into bags and marking them "Charity." Matt's Mom explains everything she's doing, how it's helping and why. Matt's Dad tells his son that the clothes are going to people who need clothes but are unable to buy them.

Effect: Little Matt sees that his parents participate in giving to charity. He will likely want to join in and help the people in need as well.

Learning Moment: Matt's parents teach him that there are many children that rely on nice little boys and girls for toys, clothes, and household goods. While he may not like his Sesame Street Comforter Set anymore and he may not read his "board books" anymore, other little boys and girls may love them! What can he give away to help others?

Participation: Little Matt can take all his clothes from last year that no longer fit and put it in his own bag for charity. His parents tell him that his clothes are going to other little boys who will love everything Matt gives to them! They will be thinking, "thank you, Matt!"

Each time we take a moment to include our children in the process of giving to others and showing compassion to others, they learn valuable lessons about kindness and empathy that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Start earlystart today!

Kids and Teens
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