Like many things, kindness is something that your child will carry with them through the rest of their lives. Kindness, forgiveness, and compassion are all incredible traits that can be underestimated, but can have huge impacts on helping to make your child more kind and gentle, which let’s be honest, was never a bad thing. Research has found that the desire to help and comfort comes just as naturally to humans as being self-centered or hurtful. Keep reading to find out how your child benefits from being a compassionate being, and what you can do to encourage their kindness.
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Define Compassion For Your Kid
Defining compassion for kids could be difficult if you are trying to explain it in terms that adults understand, using words like “sympathetic consciousness” will probably fly straight over their heads. Kids need a definition of compassion that uses words that they can understand. You can use experience examples to help create a picture, or you can give them a list of words to define so they better understand for themselves. The following words relate to compassion and help them better understand the perspective of compassion.
These may seem like big concepts that you think your child may not understand, and while it is true that children develop various levels of empathy at different ages, teaching compassion can start in the first months of your child’s life. An example of this could be as simple as a father picking up his child and soothing him by singing. The child calms down, reacting to the facial expressions of his compassionate dad, and thus learns compassion in these small, yet foundational interactions.
Teach Your Child to Recognize Their Own Feelings, As Well As the Feelings of Others
As you begin to show your children the foundations of compassion and empathy, it might also help them label the emotions that they feel themselves. If they are unable to recognize their own feelings, then empathizing with others may be difficult. When it comes to labeling emotions, it may be beneficial to help your child find the right words to express. Give your child the word to express how they feel without telling them how they feel. For example, instead of saying “You’re feeling sad,” ask “Are you feeling sad?” This approach helps your child define their feelings without you telling them how they might feel.
Use this approach with all other emotions: “Are you feeling angry right now?” “Are you feeling happy?” This approach allows your child to interpret their feelings for themselves, which will help both of you better understand the situation. Use important follow-up questions like “Tell me why you’re feeling sad (or happy or hangry),” so they are able to identify what makes them feel certain ways.
Once your child can label their own feelings, the next step is helping them recognize emotions in other people. This helps your child develop sympathy. As your child gets more adept at communicating emotions, you can begin to ask them how they think others may feel by certain situations. You can use stories and books to help your child recognize others’ emotions, as well as having meaningful conversations with them, especially discussions about emotions and values. Once your child offers you their opinion on why someone feels a certain way, ask them why they think that way. This encourages them to think more deeply about their response, but also gives you insight into how they think about and interpret emotional situations.
Lead By Example and Live A Compassionate Life
You can send your kids some pretty powerful messages about compassion by living and expressing those messages in your own life. Leading a compassionate life yourself will likely inspire your children to internalize this in their own lives. Expressions of compassion in your life are communicated to your children in several ways, both obvious and subtle. Your children, especially when they are young, will notice compassionate acts you engage in, like volunteering your time to a worthy cause of traveling a long distance to support a family member in need.
As your child gets older, they begin to grasp the subtleties of compassion and will become more familiar with the smaller acts of compassion and kindness, like comforting them when they scrape their knee or helping your significant other out with dinner when they had a stressful day at work. While these lessons may feel small, they send a big message to your kids, offering them more subtle lessons about the depth of living a compassionate life.
Treat Your Child With Respect
Treating your child with respect is extremely important for several different reasons, but in this sense, it helps you build a relationship of mutual respect and kindness. It can be as simple as letting them know that playtime is almost over as opposed to ending it abruptly, or being proud of something they just created by complimenting them.
When your child is upset about something, work through the problem with them, and help them reach a solution. Furthermore, believe that your child is capable of being kind. If you always treat your child that they are up to no good, sooner or later, they will be up to no good. If you assume that they are kind and are concerned about other people’s needs, then they tend to live up to those expectations.
Remember to stay up-to-date on our blog for more useful information and tips for you and your child! For more information about our preschool in Coon Rapids, Each Bethel, Isanti, and Blaine, or about our preschool programs and curriculum, contact us today! We look forward to hearing from you.