There’s a fine balance between teaching your child to have good self-esteem and ensuring that they understand that not only their own feeling matter. Actually, by teaching your children to be compassionate and care for those outside of themselves, will help them build good self-esteem without risking them becoming self-centered.
Here are 7 ways you can help teach your child to be empathetic and compassionate. Make sure you talk about your own thoughts and feelings about the world and find examples in everyday life to discuss. This will help them put feelings and emotions into words and definitions that they will be able to understand and reflect on.
Table of Contents
1. Demonstrate Acts of Kindness
Even small acts of kindness can have a large effect on someone. But having your child help you perform acts of kindness on a regular basis, you will teach them that this is a normal, and rewarding way to live. It can be simple things like allowing someone with fewer groceries to cut in front of you at the grocery store, offering to babysit so your brother can take his wife out to dinner or taking a tasty meal to your neighbor who just got out of the hospital.
Encourage your children to help you with these acts of kindness. Then encourage them to find acts of kindness on their own that they can do for others. Explain how the acts made you feel, and how you hope that it made the recipients felt too. The more kindness children witness the kinder they will become.
2. Teach Them To Care For A Pet
If you know that your child is up for the responsibility, why not consider getting them a pet. Looking after a pet is a big lesson in empathy. A pet is essentially helpless in the world, no matter how old they are, and due to that the humans, who have been entrusted to care for them are all they have. They need to be fed, walked and cared for emotionally.
And, when the pet displays happiness over being fed or joy from a good cuddle, your child will witness first hand the emotions that come along with being cared for. They will see that they have a direct connection with how another living creature feels.
3. Expect Your Child to Help
By expecting your child to help with others, and making it a part of the household culture, your child will eventually get on board. But naturally knowing that it’s expected of them to help, they will be more helpful.
For example, if you have a neighbor that needs help taking care of their pets, assume your child will be happy to help, and act accordingly. Teach your children about the Golden Rule and demonstrate it to them and with them on a daily basis.
4. Be Considerate
Monkey see, monkey do. The best way to really teach your children empathy and compassion? Demonstrate it yourself on a regular basis. But acting as a role model, your kids will see this as expected behavior. If you are not kind to people, don’t expect your kids to be.
If you criticize someone about their struggles by talking negatively about it with your kids, they will not end up very empathetic to the needs of others. What’s worse is if they ever find themselves in need they’ll feel shame and may be afraid to talk to you about it later in life.
5. Put Labels on Feelings
Most of the time we have trouble putting our feelings into words. Things like anger and sadness the other emotions are left out in the cold. It’s important to talk about feelings and emotions with your child. Put them into age-appropriate definitions, and help point them out on a regular basis.
This way, your child will understand their emotions when they occur. You want your child to be able to express their feelings, and be able to anticipate the feelings of others. The more you talk about feelings openly with your child, the more power they have to express themselves to you in words. This helps prevent meltdowns and helps them become more emotionally intelligent. This will lead to them being more empathetic as well.
6. Don’t Gossip
Some people have a really hard time with gossiping. They feel as if they just can’t help themselves. Teach your children what gossiping is and why they shouldn’t do it. Explain them to them how it can hurt someone else, and how it makes them look bad as well, and as if they cannot be trusted.
Also, have discussions on how to deal with certain situations, like when someone they know is gossiping about someone else. It helps to give them phrases they can use to stop it in its tracks like “I don’t like talking about other people when they are not around.” or to simply leave the discussion and do something else. They don’t have to say anything at all if they don’t want to, but they can decide not to be around it.
7. Demonstrate Empathy
How you act is very important. For example, let’s say your child wakes up grumpy. It’s not fair for your child to put everyone else in a bad mood too, but you can show empathy by expressing how sad you are that they’re feeling agitated and give them a hug while at the same time asking them to talk about their mood and to turn it around.
This is the same way they can treat that mean kid at school. They can realize that they have no idea what type of life that child has at their home. Maybe their mother is very ill, or they have an abusive father. No one knows what goes on behind closed doors.
Helping your child learn to care about others is an important part of raising children into productive, valuable members of society when they are adults. After all, as parents, your job is to turn out adults who make the world better, not adults who take everything for themselves as if life is a game of winner takes all.