Compassionate children will become compassionate adults. People aren’t born compassionate. It is a learned behavior. Parents can teach their children compassion early. It is important to raise children in a tradition of compassion from the time that they are small. Always be on the alert for examples you can take from your life that the whole family can participate in, and thus work on being more compassionate individuals. The list of such possibilities is really endless from the time that children are small.
Raising Children To Be Compassionate
Acts of Compassion that Instruct
When going grocery shopping, send a small child to an elderly or invalid neighbor’s home to ask what he or she would like you to pick up or if the neighbor would like to come along. After a winter snowstorm, send a slightly older child over to an elderly or invalid neighbor’s home to see if he or she can shovel the snow for no charge. In the summer, send an intermediate child to an elderly or invalid neighbor’s home to see if he or she can cut the grass for the neighbor at no charge. Most of us cannot bring home a cold homeless person this winter but you can volunteer in your neighborhood instead. Older children may also be able to volunteer.
Teach your children this cardinal rule about panhandling: If someone needs money badly enough to ask a stranger for it on the street, give what you can. Don’t question the person’s motives or excuse. Those don’t matter. The person needs the money, and you have it. This way, everyone can always feel good about giving without ever wondering if they are a sucker.
Family Activities to Teach Giving
As a family, do the “declutter boogie” one Saturday afternoon. Put on some fast and furious music and set out three big boxes. One box is for the things that belong in another room than the one you are currently decluttering. One box is for junk that needs to be thrown away. And the last box is for contributions to the local thrift store or Good Will pick up. One room at a time, the house gets cleaned, and the children get excited about sharing their possessions with less fortunate people.
Teach Recycling as a Way to Give
Other recycling group efforts include your local freecycle recycling community effort. This is for larger objects such as furniture or large groups of objects. The whole family can get into the thrill of posting an ad in the free cycling digest, saying what the items are and where they will be left. Then the family can wait and watch for the grateful receiver to place his or her thank you ad. It’s a good feeling and less clutter for you.
Teaching Them to Pass it On
Next time you are on a toll road, give a little kid a thrill by allowing him to pay the toll of the car behind you. Kids will begin to learn how to do a random act of kindness without being thanked. Another way to pass it on would be the next time you are in the drive-thu picking up dinner or coffee. I know my kids get a kick out of me doing this.
Instructions in Random Acts of Kindness
If you know someone who doesn’t drive in your church or community who has recently lost a dear one, volunteer, as a family to drive the person to the cemetery. Bring flowers. Point out acts of compassion and random acts of kindness that others do for your family. “Look, that man is holding the door for us.” “That lady gave up her seat on the bus so we could all sit together.” Teach them to show their appreciation.
Other ways to share RAKs:
- Pack extra snacks in the kids’ lunches so they can share them at school.
- When there is a canned food drive, let the kids gather the food.
- Impress on children the need to look out for younger children they see bullied or taken advantage of.
Be a Good Role Model
Be sure that you (Mom or Dad) do your best to model compassion and random acts of kindness. There’s no better way of teaching it than to model it.
Selfish, self-seeking children are not just spoiled; they are unhappy people who may be unhappy for life. They grow up with an attitude of waiting for others to do for them and give to them. That attitude can only end in frustration and misery. Compassionate children learn the joy of love and hold on to it for a lifetime. They know it truly is better to give than to receive. That is a wonderful parenting gift.