By Brandy Browne
Imagine a world where there was less hurt, less unkind behavior, more compassion for our fellow human beings. Beautiful, right? So, how do we get there? We get there by focusing on the future…instilling kindness and compassion in the children who will grow up to be the future. Greater Good Science Center of Berkeley University defines compassion as “the feeling that arises when we are confronted by another person’s suffering and feeling motivated to relieve that suffering” (retrieved from https://www.compassionateactionnetwork.org/science-of-compassion). Simply put, having compassion equates to feeling motivated to ease the suffering one sees in the world through acts of kindness.
Being kind is something that is “taught” in schools and homes across the country, but what does one do when that abstract idea is somewhat confusing to children? What does it mean to be kind and show compassion? One way to increase the compassion in our children is through conversation. Use the following tips when discussing kindness and compassion with children.
Tips for Talking with Kids about Kindness and Compassion
- Point out similarities…noticing what is similar among all of us increases feelings of compassion. For example, I may be a light skinned brunette with green eyes, but I bleed the same and have the same feelings as my brothers and sisters with dark skin and dark eyes. While our outward appearance and our abilities make us unique, there are some qualities inherent to all human life.
- Encourage cooperation and teamwork over constant competition. There is a time and a place for competition, but one should never value “winning” over destroying everything in his or her path with no other cares except to be “first.” I want to teach my children the value of working hard, but not at the expense of hurting their fellow human.
- Teach your children that they have the power to do good for the world. Offer them opportunities for small concrete acts that will put good into the world often.
- Be a compassion role model. Children learn by what they see us DO, not by the words we speak. If you want to instill kindness and compassion in your children, let them catch you being kind and compassionate.
- Point out how good it feels to be kind and compassionate. That feeling is contagious. As that feeling increases, your children will want to engage in more acts of compassion and kindness.
Also, there is a wealth of children’s books that illustrate what it means to be kind in a concrete way that is easy for children to understand. Check out these children’s titles with your littles.
- A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
- Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say
- Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey
- The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett
- A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Phillip C. Stead
Irish activist Mary Davis once said, “You cannot heal the world today, but we can begin with a voice of compassion, a heart of love, and an act of kindness.” Making the world a more compassionate place to live in will not happen overnight, but by being intentional about instilling these virtues in our children and living them out every day in our families, workplaces, and communities, we can make a difference for tomorrow.
Compassion Action Network. (2020). The science of compassion. Retrieved from https://www.compassionateactionnetwork.org/science-of-compassion