What is compassion? Compassion is a deep feeling you have for the suffering or discomfort of others. Can a feeling be taught?
I recall my father saying, “Smile until you mean it”. Sometimes it actually worked. In fact sometimes we would end up laughing because we were trying so hard not to smile. So, how do you teach a toddler about compassion?
It starts by treating your child with compassion. It’s important to use compassion and yet not take away individual responsibility. Let’s look a little closer at the difference.
“Brian, I am so sorry you hurt your knee. Let me help you clean it up and get a Band-Aid.” Using this phrasing showed compassion, however it doesn’t point out the responsibility.
“Brian, I am so sorry you hurt your knee. Let me help you clean it up and get a Band-Aid. Maybe we can remember not to run down that big hill. You get hurt.” This verbiage suggests compassion and yet reminds the child of their responsibility in the problem.
There many situations during the day of a toddler that you can point out and help him/her complete acts of compassion. Think of it as being kind and it may make it simpler to find those teaching moments.
Sharing is a good way to teach compassion. Point out the feelings of the child that doesn’t have the toys or food. Talk about the way that child probably feels. Give your child the chance to share. Let your child know how proud you are of his/her actions. It makes everyone happier when you share.
While traveling with a mother of an 18-month-old recently the traffic was horrendous. She pointed out to her child every time she was kind in traffic and let some one pull in or she moved over to let some one go by. She followed it up with commenting that now the people in both cars were happy. Teach by example and make the examples clear.
Simple words like please and thank you are the beginning of compassion. Use these words with your child and praise her/him every time they do it without you reminding them.
I am one of those random acts of kindness freaks. I do something every day. I had my niece out and we went to a vending machine to get a treat. Then we “hid” at a nearby table. We have left the change in for the next person and we wanted to see them be happy. They didn’t know it was us, but Tristen learned a little bit about happiness and sharing.
Bottom line, if you want compassionate children, be compassionate adults.