Today’s world is not kind. The “leaders” are not kind to other leaders. The people that are praised as leaders have often advanced by being unkind and self-serving. Rude drivers and rude neighbors fill our communities. People still exclude others because of race and religion. Not everyone is rude, so please don’t think I’m a total pessimist. But one of my priorities as a mother in the world in this generation is to teach my children kindness and compassion.
Sometimes this feels difficult, and I really believe that some difficulties can be blamed on the unique personalities of our young children. Here’s an example. In my last two pregnancies, I had horrible morning sickness. I also had a child between 3.5 and 4.5 during both of these pregnancies.
- One of my children during one of those pregnancies would say, “I’m sorry, Mommy! I hope you feel better soon!”
- Another my children during a different pregnancy (same age) would say, “Mommy! Get back in here! Stop being sick! I need more oatmeal!”
I did not teach my children differently, but they have their own personalities. For one of my children, I see compassion and kindness as a personality trait. For my other child, I see other strengths. But being compassionate and having empathy for others is not one of them.
How can I help my children see the world around them with more empathy, compassion, and kindness?
I don’t believe there is a simple fix for something this important. That said, teaching kindness and compassion must start with me. I must be an example of kindness and compassion. Similarly, as a parent, I help by teaching kids to notice and use their words to communicate what we see. Finally, I must be patient with them as I teach them principle upon principle. We can’t learn anything all at once, and developing kindness is a life-mission for all of us.
The Cake Analogy for Learning Compassion
Once my friend told me a story. She was making a cake for a friend’s reception. It took her hours of work, and when it was time to take it to the venue, she carefully loaded it into the back of her car on a special tray. She was very nervous about transporting the cake, however. She’d never driven with a cake of that size in her car, and she really did not want to mess up the frosting after all the hours of work she’d put in.
Because of her care, she decided to drive extra slowly. At each intersection, she braked early and came to a very gradual stop. At each turn, she moved at a snail’s pace. Even in regular traffic, she ignored the others around her and went at a steady speed. She did not want to mess up that precious cake!
A few days later, she once again traveled the same route. As she waited at a stop light, she felt frustration at the slow car in front of her. Didn’t he see the light had turned green?! Almost immediately, she remembered her cake. Maybe the man in front of her had a cake in his car! Her frustration melted away at the thought. He deserved to get that cake to the desintaiton without an smudged frosting. She could be more patient.
Road rage would not exist if we all controlled ourselves and showed kindness and compassion to others! Our kids learn from us.
What kind of analogy would relate to your children?
Show Kindness and Compassion
You’ve heard the saying, “Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.” Well, this is exactly what is needed when considering how to teach a young child what kindness and compassion is. Our ultimate example in our home is the Savior Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life. His life is what we should all exemplify.
Needless to say, I am not perfect. I have found myself yelling or berating my children when they are disobedient, slow, or irresponsible. Yelling and berating is exactly what I do not want my children to do. If they were face to face with someone who is struggling, tired, or confused, I want my children to respond with a nice voice and a calm demeanor. I want my children to want to help someone who is upset. If I want them to do those things, then I too need to be the first to be their example.
I have much to learn about showing kindness and compassion. I want to be better, and I try every day to aim for the Savior’s model. The only way my children will learn to react with kindness is if that is my own daily walk.
Here are things I’ve noticed help me show kindness and compassion to my children.
- Say “Thank you” as often as I can. Gratitude is a form of kindness.
- Apologize sincerely when I realize I’m in the wrong. Let’s face it, parents are often wrong. It’s not always easy to admit, but it is true.
- Lower my voice and get control of my own strong emotions before responding to a child.
- Consider all sides of a situation before jumping to a conclusion.
Help Children Be Kind and Compassionate
Even if we are being the best possible example to our children, it is quite possible that they are like my child (as mentioned above) and they simply tend to see the world through their own eyes. As the parent, my child needs help learning to be kind and compassionate. Here are some ways.
- Help your child find words for the strong emotions she is feeling. “You are so sad because Ted took your toy! I wonder if Ted knows how you feel.” As children learn to articulate their feelings, they will be better able to understand the feelings of others.
- Help your child express gratitude for what she has been given. As she notices, she can better express kindness to others as well.
- When others are upset and your child is not, direct her attention to the others. Ask her questions about how the other child is feeling.
- Help your child consider how others feel while playing with toys or while not having toys. Encourage sharing and fairness, but especially point out the feelings of others around her.
- When someone does something nice for your child, state what has been done and put a positive feeling with it. This helps the child notice what has been done and how they feel about it.
When children are taught to notice the everyday moments when others are in need of compassion or they are given kindness, then compassion and gratitude can become their natural reactions.
We All Learn One Day at a Time
As I mentioned before, our prime exemplar is the Savior Himself, who is perfect. None of us are perfect. It is perfectly alright that kids take years to develop an ability to show kindness and compassion. As their parents, we may constantly be showing an example of kindness and expressing compassion for the very real feelings that our children experience. As we do so, we improve our own lives. We’re still learning. Of course it is okay that our kids are still learning.
One day I mumbled a simple frustration under my breath as I drove my children. My daughter quickly piped up, “Mom, Jesus does not want us to say that about people.” So yes, even though I am the adult and she is the child, we all can get a lesson each day. I love that I can learn to become better by being with my kids each day and striving to do so!
Here are more ideas on how to teach our children these principles:
- Tot Hacks: How to Bring up a Kind Child from Best Toys 4 Toddlers
- Learning to Be Kind from Kids Activities Blog
- 4 Everyday Ways to Teach Kids to Be Kind from My Joy-Filled Life
- Teach Kids about Kindness from Your Modern Family
- Teaching Children Love from The Soccer Mom Blog
- 7 Songs for Teaching Kindness from The Educator’s Spin on It
- Teach Kindness from Carrots Are Orange
- How to Help Children Make Friends from Kelly’s Classroom
- Teaching Kids that it is OK to REspectfully Disagree and Nurturing Emotional Intelligence and Empathy from Kara Carrero