It is not easy to raise kind kids nowadays. Compassion and selflessness are less in vogue than ever before. In their place, selfishness and narcissism seem to be everywhere. From our social media to our pop culture to our politics, it seems as though everyone everywhere cares only about themselves.
The good news is that we can defeat all the toxic egocentrism that’s out there. It takes a whole lotta effort, but we can instill in our kids a long-lasting sense of compassion. To do it, we must nurture in them a willingness to genuinely care about other people.
By doing the 4 things mentioned in this post, you can help make compassion cool again.
1. Live a life of compassion.
You’ve probably grown tired of hearing it, but you are the best example your kids will ever see. In fact, you’re kind of like a walking billboard for how to treat others. To further that analogy, your little ones are stuck in traffic, sitting in their (plastic) car and staring up at you.
ALL THE TIME!
Because of this, try to develop a keen sense of awareness regarding your actions. And remember that you can show compassion in big and little ways.
For example, your younger kids notice when you volunteer your time at a local charity.
On the other hand, your older kids see how you respond with sympathy when their sibling falls and gets hurt.
One act is obvious, while the other is more subtle.
In the end, though, they both point to you being a compassionate person who genuinely cares for others.
2. Surround your family with compassionate people.
As your kids get older, their social world expands. This is good in that it can introduce them to new and interesting people from all over the world. It’s also bad in that it can allow less than savory individuals or groups to influence them.
The good news is that you can actively combat these negative influencers by surrounding your children with people you trust and admire.
You can select a core group of people and institutions that reinforce your message of kindness and compassion.
Be it the neighborhood in which you live, the families who you befriend, or the schools you send your kids to, you can directly influence your child’s circle of influence.
Surrounding your kids with people and groups who share your kindhearted values has a two-fold positive effect: it ensures your kids receive the right message from someone other than you, and it creates a sort of protective force field around them that prevents messages of narcissism from getting through to them.
Now that’s worth finding the right company!
3. Openly discuss with your kids what it means to be compassionate.
As your kids get older, you should create an open dialogue pertaining to compassion, what it means to show it, and how you can foster it in others. This will enable your children to gain a deeper understanding of the concept and how it can play a part in their lives.
The best way to adequately discuss compassion is to point out examples of it as often as you can. Show your kids that being patient and kind to their siblings is one way to show compassion. Tell them that every time they take their clothes that no longer fit and donate them to the local charity, they are demonstrating compassion.
It’s important for kids to realize that showing kindness and compassion is not just for adults. That it’s something people of all ages can do.
The more you explicitly discuss the ins and outs of living a compassionate life, the more comfortable your kids will be with the concept.
4. Give your kids plenty of opportunities to show compassion.
The most powerful way to prepare your kids for a life of compassion is to have them actively engage in one today. Yes, it’s important to discuss the concept, but nothing beats getting out and doing it.
The best part is that you can start with little things and work your way up to bigger, more complicated actions.
For example, the next time one of your children is knocked out with the flu, have his or her sibling take care of them. Show them how to care for someone who is sick, and then allow them to take over. Let them take ownership of their sibling’s healing.
You can eventually move on to more elaborate ways of showing compassion. One thing we like to do is foster an abandoned pet. This teaches your kid that all living creatures have value, and that it’s our job to look after them when they’re hurting – even if we didn’t initially cause their pain.
During and after you complete an activity like that, make sure you’re constantly reflecting upon what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Your reasons should go beyond rescuing a puppy because he’s “sooooo cute!”
There are numerous benefits to your kids having this type of direct experience while showing compassion.
In the case of a sick sibling, it allows them to see the gratitude in their brother or sister’s eyes. They can put a face to their act of kindness, thus making it that much more impactful.
Same thing with the puppy. Being the recipient of all those wet puppy kisses will implant on your child’s brain the positive emotions associated with their act of thoughtfulness.
Contrary to what modern society seems to think, compassion is cool. Teaching your kids how to do it will ensure that the fine art of living a compassionate life survives at least one more generation.
What are some additional ways you like to teach your kids compassion? Mention your ideas in the comments.
And as always, stay kind!