We often hear that parents must serve as role models for their children. “Monkey See, Monkey Do.” Since the Powerful Word of the month is compassion for all Powerful Words Member Schools, it’s a great time to demonstrate ways to be compassionate at home. After all, when you show kindness, your children will learn kindness, and demonstrate kindness. When you show intolerance, impatience, and injustice, they will learn to behave in the same ways.
Here are some hands-on ways to understand how to pass on the ability to be empathic and compassionate to your children.
1. Compassion for Other Family Members
Scenario: It’s the weekend. Mom and Dad have been doing chores all day long. Both are tired. When they decide to call it quits for the day, Mom offers Dad something cold to drink and they sit together on the couch. Dad massages Mom’s feet after a long day.
Effect: Little Matt sees that both Mom and Dad feel for and understand each other. Little Matt learns what empathy and compassion look like. He also sees the positive effects such kindness has on others.
Teaching Moment: Talk to Matt about the importance of showing compassion to others in the family. Even if you’re tired or even if you’re a child, you can still show kindness is easy, helpful ways. These acts of kindness make people feel good inside– both the receiver and the giver!
Participation: Let Little Matt bring a cookie for Dad or let him massage Mom’s fingers.
These little ways of contributing to others will send the signal to Little Matt that he can make others feel good by showing compassion.
2. Compassion for Animals
Having pets in the home is a great way to teach children compassion.
Scenario: Polly the cockatoo is making a raucous in her stand. Mom checks her out, sees the seed bin empty, and the water cup empty. Mom cleans the containers, places some seeds and pours fresh water.
Effect: Little Matt understands that if pets need and deserve attention.
Learning moment: Explain to Little Matt that the bird became noisy because it couldn’t fend for itself and she was hungry. Just like when he was a little baby, and he was hungry, he would cry. Mom treats Polly as a member of the family who needs caring, Little Matt would treat Polly in the same way.
Participation: Assign Matt to be the “listener” for Polly’s cries or the “food checker” every other day. When able, he can put seeds and pour water into the container.
3. Compassion for Playmates
Scenario: While playing in your backyard, Little Matt’s friend, Tommy, bruises his knee and starts crying. Mom washes his bruises, blowing to keep the pain away, and placing antiseptic to make sure the bruise doesn’t get infected. All this time, Mom explains to Matt what she is doing.
Effect: Little Matt sees the pain in his friend and sees Mom try her best to take the pain away. Again, Little Matt learns empathy and compassion.
Learning Moment: When our friends get hurt, we need to stop what we’re doing and take care of the. That means helping them when they trip or getting an adult when they need some extra assistance.
Participation: Let Little Matt join in blowing the pain away. He can also get the band-aid out of the cabinet or the cotton-ball out of the container.
4. Compassion for Others
Scenario: One of the local charities called and they’re doing a big clothing drive. Mom and Dad start putting their old or unworn clothes into bags and marking them “Charity.” Matt’s Mom explains what she’s doing. Matt’s Dad tells his son that the clothes are going to people who need clothes but are unable to buy them.
Effect: Little Matt sees that his parents participate in giving to charity. He will likely want to join in and help the people in need as well.
Learning Moment: Matt’s parents teach him that there are many children that rely on nice little boys and girls for toys, clothes, and household goods. While he may not like his Sesame Street Comforter Set anymore and he may not read his “board books” anymore, other little boys and girls may love them! What can he give away to help others?
Participation: Matt can put his clothes from last year that he no longer wears, into a bag for charity. His parents tell him that his clothes are going to other little boys who will love everything Matt gives to them! They will be thinking, “thank you, Matt!”
Note: Many of our Powerful Words Member Schools do great charity drives in August! We’d love to have you join in and donate your unwanted clothes and household items!
Each time we take a moment to include our children in the process of giving to others and showing compassion to others, they learn valuable lessons about kindness and empathy that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Start early—start today!