Secrets to raising compassionate kids
Have you ever wondered why one of the two sons of your very gracious and kind neighbour, Mrs. Yeh, is equally gracious, polite and kind, while the other son is such a rude rebellious rascal?
When we think about raising our kids, we always emphasise “teaching by example” as the most important aspect of parenting. Teaching by example, in fact, is one of the best ways to teach our children. However, IT is not the only way. In fact, using “teaching by example” as the ONLY way to raise your children could lead to very frustrating results.
“I Was Good To You, Why Did You Turn Out Badly?”
There was this tear-jerking drama I saw on TV where the mother visits her son in jail. She cried, “Why? Why have you grown so bad? I have loved you so much; I have cared for you with all of my heart, and I have given you everything you have asked for. Why... despite of all the love and compassion I have showered upon you, why have you grown up to be a criminal?” It was the most heart-wrenching scene I’ve ever seen on TV.
Obviously that mother was a kind and loving person. However, “teaching by example,” was not enough to influence her son to become an upright, compassionate person. Children have different personalities, some respond positively to what they see and try to emulate them. Sadly, some kids (like the other son of Mrs. Yeh) could just get used to the doting and generosity that they could become self-centered “me-first/gimme-gimme/mine-mine” brats.
The most common --and I’d say, a very dangerous --mistake parents could commit as far as raising children is to believe that having compassionate kids is something that naturally comes out as a by-product of compassionate parents.
No, the truth is, character formation is a purposeful parental exercise aimed at training the child. Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that by becoming a better person –a good role model—is all it takes to raise compassionate children.
Never make the assumption that since your kids grew up in a family of compassionate parents, they would naturally become compassionate themselves. Never leave this task of character formation to chance. Nor should you leave the responsibility of character formation to the teachers at school or to your religious leader. We as parents SHOULD BE INTENTIONAL IN TRAINING COMPASSIONATE BEHAVIOR, WE SHOULD BE DELIBERATE WITH OUR EFFORTS TOWARDS CHARACTER BUILDING.
If you notice a problem with your kid’s attitude, please never ask, “Don’t they teach good manners in school anymore?” Do you know that some teachers feel that kids who are misbehaving are not the problem? They feel that the parents of misbehaving kids are the problem. In most instances, when a child gets unruly, the question would be, “Whose child is this?”
I have said before “parenting” is a verb, we have to ACT, to intentionally teach our kids. Setting an example is just one of the numerous ways—but never the only way.
The Values Of The Heart
In this achievement-oriented culture we live in, much emphasis is placed on success, on high grades, and competitiveness. This makes it more important for us parents to inculcate in our children’s hearts and minds the values that make this world more humane, more livable—the values of compassion, of unselfishness, of caring for others, of kindness.
What is intelligence and success without compassion? The thought makes me shiver.
• The love and affection we shower our children should be balanced with rules and limitations regarding behaviour. Not doing so would risk raising them as stubborn self-centered brats. Without entrenched limitations on their behaviour, they will feel confused and rebellious whenever rules will be enforced on them (after all, it wasn’t there to start with).
• While your love and care can make your child believe he SHOULD always be at the receiving end, it would be good to start early in teaching them the spirit of giving besides receiving. If your kids are taught to share what they have, and help when they can (setting the table, feeding the cat, etc.) they will be introduced to the feel-good elation of being the giver, not the taker. If you say, it is impossible with kids, hey, they are kids! What do you expect? You can’t climb Mt. Everest by saying it is impossible.
• You know the Golden Rule. This is an easy rule that kids could always easily understand than any other “adult” rules.
• Consistency. Unacceptable behaviour should always be treated as such. When your terrible tyke grabbed her sister’s toy, and you just ignored it because you are tired, you are confusing the child. The child will have a vague idea of what “rules” are: it’s ok to break them sometimes?
• Be a good role-model. (See it’s just one of the ways of teaching). Be kind, helpful, and gentle with the way you talk to others. Trash-talking someone in front of your child could be the anti-thesis of character building.
• Never forget to teach and instill in the hearts of your children your Faith or religious guidance as early as possible. Whatever your religion or belief is, it always is the best way to guide you in raising compassionate children. A little Divine intervention would go a long, long way.