How to Teach Children Compassion

The best way to teach children about compassion is through example. Children observe how you deal with troubles, how you treat friends and family in need, how you treat animals, how you treat the less fortunate. And of course, children see how you treat them. Our interactions with others are opportunities to teach a child compassion.

Young children love to imitate – I managed to break my grandfather’s swearing habit quite quickly when I was learning to talk. Keep this in mind in everything you do – how you deal with a situation will soon be reflected in your child’s behavior.

Simple things like not stepping on an insect in the driveway will eventually translate into being kind to others. In play, when handling inanimate objects – dolls and stuffed animals – there is an opportunity to teach compassion. Throwing a stuffed toy around may lead to throwing a live kitten or puppy, and that is totally unacceptable.

It might seem obvious, but handling your child’s troubles gently and calmly will be reflected in their behavior towards others. It isn’t always easy, but avoid loosing your temper, shouting or rough handling. Deal with situations calmly and quietly, and your child will learn to deal with things in the same way.

Listen to your child’s troubles, don’t just dismiss them out of hand. Listening sympathetically is a huge part of being compassionate. Remember that children see the world in a totally different way, and what may seem ridiculous to us (the monster in the closet) is quite real to them. The trick is to teach them how to deal with their troubles, and how to help others with troubles too.

Instill a spirit of giving to the less fortunate – have them drop a few pennies in a collection box or encourage them to donate a toy to a less fortunate child. Make sure they share toys with friends who come to visit and that they play nicely – no grabbing away of toys or refusing to share a crayon.

Once a child is old enough to handle a pet responsibly, a dog or a cat, WITH PROPER SUPERVISION, can be a great ‘prop’ to teach compassion, as well as responsibility. Make sure your child is ready, and that you are ready – an animal alone teaches nothing – only your guidance will help your child to learn how to deal with others.

Be careful not to go to far the other way – don’t let compassion turn into mollycoddling. Negative things happen in life, and children need to learn to deal with them rather than being sheltered. Don’t force the issue, demanding that they part with part of their allowance or a favorite toy. And don’t force them in scary situations – if gramma is suddenly ill, a young child may be too frightened to show the same level of affection they did when gramma was healthy.

The world needs more compassion, and we need to ensure our children are compassionate. Starting from an early age, providing the right example and guidance will help to ensure that your child is a compassionate child – and eventually, a compassionate adult.