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06 Oct. 2020

Raising Compassionate Children

Compassion is the “sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it”. It is different from mere sympathy and pity as it involves not just concern for others but also a desire to help others work through their distress -an act of altruism.

In the current day and age, where technology has boomed to an extent that connecting with people is more virtual; and love, compassion, and kindness are represented through emojis, it has become imperative to instil in our children the importance of compassion. How can one do so, you may ask? Well here are some ways you can incorporate to help your child become a more compassionate individual.

• Learning by Observation: Children learn through observation and processing the observed behaviour in their brain. As parents or teachers, you therefore shoulder the responsibility of modeling the right behavior for children to observe and learn. This essentially implies that to ensure compassionate behavior from children, you need to be compassionate yourself. For example, if you see someone having difficulty crossing the road, go and help them, then talk about it with your child.

• Positive Guidance: Guiding your children positively is important and should always be used instead of harsh punishment. For example if your child is in a situation which has an opportunity for him/her to be compassionate, but s/he does not engage in the so-called desired behaviour, instead of scolding them, talk to them about what they could have done and how their actions might have helped the other person involved.

The best way to teach children any positive behavior is to let them observe and talk to them about the particular behavior, and letting them know how their lives would benefit from acting in the particular suggested manner. This way you don’t only reinforce the idea of engaging with your children on positive things but also renders them with a sense of autonomy and responsibility.

• Importance of Others: Our brains interact with the environment. Children are often enchanted by themselves and their immediate surroundings. It is important to teach them to look beyond themselves and think about other people. You can start by talking to them about immediate family members or friends and how they acted in a compassionate manner towards someone in the past or received compassion from another. You can even encourage them to think of ideas for a skit and perform it, wherein compassionate behaviour is highlighted.

• Stories of Compassion: In the house or classroom, you can have a small bulletin board, or a file wherein you can keep newspaper or magazine articles talking about cases wherein compassion is highlighted. In this file, children can also put their own pictures and stories of compassion. Every few weeks, the contents of the file can be discussed and learnings can be emphasised.

• Self-compassion: While it is important to teach children compassion for others, do not forget to tell them to channel the same compassion towards themselves. It is common to be harsher on ourselves than to our loved ones, and thus self-compassion becomes important here. Treating yourself with the same kindness, respect and love as you would treat your best friend or a close family member with is essential. Teach them to be easy on themselves whenever required.

Having discussed the various techniques, it is important to understand that these techniques are not something that will instil compassion in one go or immediately. They need to be practiced regularly to be imbibed and absorbed by the child. It is thus crucial to give your child opportunities to partake in them regularly and stand back and watch him/her bloom into a beautiful compassionate human.