raising children to be compassionate

My experience

Several weeks ago I took a homeless man shopping, which is what started this whole thought storm about compassion. It wasn`t the experience itself that really got me thinking, but it was the response I got from people in my life when I shared what I had done. People said things like:

My husband would kill me if I did that.

Why would you do that?

You had the kids with you when you did that?

He is just going to return everything for the cash.

Very few people actually thought that it was a nice thing to do, or shared a story about how they had done something similar. I started to feel like I had done something wrong because everyone was so negative about it!

The takeaway

We can`t know what other people are dealing with. I can`t say for sure that the homeless man I helped really is looking for a job, or that he hasn`t returned everything I bought him. At the end of the day, he could have not been a very honest person. I am not oblivious, I know that it is possible. At the end of my day, I KNOW that I reached a hand out in compassion, and that if I do it enough, I WILL make a difference to someone.

After this experience I really started to think, “what can I do to raise my children to be compassionate?” I want them to reach a hand out to others - not be the ones commenting about what a bad choice it is to do so. I want them to really consider how other people are feeling, and be proactive in helping others. I want them to be compassionate! As parents, it is our job to raise kids that will be compassionate adults.

My game plan

One thing that I have already been doing that works really well for Briar, is asking her to recognize how others are feeling. For example, if she is having a snack and Boone comes over and starts fussing I will say something along the lines of, “whats wrong with Boone?” Then I talk her through how he is sad because she is eating oranges and he doesn`t have any. Nine times out of ten Briar will hand over some orange slices all on her own, unprompted by me. Then I will say something like, “look how happy you made him by sharing!”

Today it is orange slices - in twenty years it will be taking a homeless man shopping.

At MOPS, coincidentally right after I had this experience, the topic was compassion and I picked up a tip from the video speaker, Osheta Moore. She suggests, “telling better stories.” Basically if you find yourself or your kids griping about another person you can redirect your thoughts or your kids thoughts to compassion by making up a story (or having your kids do it) about what happened in that persons day that caused them to be rude/mean/etc. As my kids get older I plan on doing this with them.

Lastly, the most important thing we can do as parents is set a good example. Our children watch everything we do and hear everything we say. If we want to raise our children to be compassionate adults, we need to be compassionate adults! When my kids are older I will know that I have done a good job if they find nothing odd or strange about taking a homeless man shopping because they have been watching me.

I would love to hear your thoughts on raising children to be compassionate adults. What do you do to teach your kids compassion?

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