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How to Teach Children to Be Kind and Compassionate

by Tiffany Raiford

A number of people believe that the nice guy always finishes last, but the truth is that the nice guy is the one with a leg up on the competition. Being kind and compassionate is not a weakness, but a strength. People are innately drawn to those who have a kind and compassionate personality. Teaching your child to be both may seem more difficult in theory than it is in reality. As her teacher, simply modeling both can help her develop these personality traits.

Forbid rude behavior. According to a CNN Parenting.com article, "How to Raise a Compassionate Child," not allowing rude behavior in your house under any circumstance is a good way to promote kindness. Rudeness is disrespectful and being disrespectful is the antithesis of compassionate and kind. For example, if your child hits her sister, immediately use a firm but quiet tone to tell her that physical violence is never acceptable and you will not permit that type of behavior.

Explain kindness to your child as often as possible, advises Parent and Child Magazine. If your child helps you pick up the toys in the living room before bedtime without being asked, thank him. However, do not simply tell him, “Thank you,” and move on. Thank him and explain to him why you are thanking him. For example, “Thank you, son, for helping me pick up the toys in the living room without being asked. That is very kind of you.” This helps him by providing a concrete example of what kindness looks like.

Use teachable moments to encourage your child to become kind and compassionate. For example, if you see a teenager helping an elderly person load the back of her car with groceries in the rain, talk to your child about the situation. Explain to him that kindness and compassion are at play here; the teenager was kind enough to help someone who needed it even though the weather isn’t ideal and that he is compassionate enough to notice her need in the first place.

Model kindness and compassion in front of your child. According to Suzanne Coyle, Ph.D., mother and director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, the example you set for your child is the one she uses to determine what is considered appropriate behavior. For example, if you say negative things about people when they are not around, your child will learn to view this as acceptable behavior, even though it is nowhere near kind or compassionate.

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