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Teaching Compassion to Children

Children develop compassion through practice and time. You can do many things to encourage and foster a loving, gentle child. Helping and comforting are as natural to us as being self-centered or rude, research shows.

Empathy is the ability to comprehend how others feel. Young children are typically egocentric and focused on themselves and their wants. They haven't considered others' needs and feelings. Developing empathy is vital for young children and can help them throughout childhood and adulthood.

Increasing Empathy

Empathy grows with time. Here are some strategies for helping teach your child to be compassionate and thankful to those around them:

Believe in your child's kindness. If you treat your child as if they are always up to no good, soon they will be up to no good. If you think he wants to assist and cares about others, they will usually deliver.

Remind children that how they treat others is important. Children may find it humorous if a car splashes someone in a puddle. You might point out, "That lady is not laughing at what happened, look, she is sad."

Don't overlook rudeness. When someone is rude to you, be an adult and set the example. This teaches children that being cruel back isn't necessary.

Do good. Let children see you doing kind things, like transporting an elderly neighbor to the store or comforting a friend. Most parents are role-models from the child’s birth. Show them how you enjoy helping them and that it is not just a duty. This teaches give-and-take and openness with others.

Respect your child. Simply telling children that playtime is almost finished will help. When playing or watching television, it is important to give them a warning. I like to tell my children when they have ten minutes and five minutes left when playing or watching television, so they know it is coming soon and is not so upsetting to suddenly end. You may also discuss real-world dispute resolution. At home, you may tell your little one, Mommy and Daddy don't always agree, but we listen to each other and treat each other with respect instead of putting each other down.

Explain that calling someone names or excluding him from play is cruel. If your child calls someone "butt legs" (My four year old has taken this particular term up for some strange reason!) in the park, problem-solve with both kids. Can you notice the child's tears? The name-caller may want to play with you and your toys. How can you acquire what you desire without hurting others? Make sure the victim doesn't feel victimized, and urge your child to apologize.

Help your child help others. Encourage your little one to contribute an old item to the yearly toy drive as you buy blocks. He can help you prepare cookies for a shelter and visit a hospital or nursing home.

Show your child patience. Even as adults, we learn kindness and compassion. Being a caring parent and role model will help raise a tolerant child. Work on a puzzle together where they see you being patient!

Recognize generosity. Show your child you appreciate kindness. Say, "It was really nice of that person to hold the door for us." If your child is kind, praise her.

Consider how your child perceives others' differences. Assume the best of young children, as they observe contrasts in people, creatures, and crayons. Discuss your child's socially unacceptable statement calmly. Ask "Why do you say that?" Then clarify the issue.

Watch what your children see on TV. Children are equally as prone to act out pleasant scenes from movies and literature as other scenes. Be mindful of what your child watches and be willing to discuss it. Encourage loving and compassionate books.

Parents and teachers are children's earliest and most enduring instructors, and modeling empathic behavior is one of the most effective methods for parents to instill this vital ability in their children.

Doing puzzles together may be one of the simplest methods to help children develop a sense of empathy, as they learn to correlate sharing and helping others as you work together toward a goal.



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