Skip to main content

As parents, we are a massive influence over who our children grow up to be. Thankfully, this can work in our favor and in theirs- because there are many ways we can help shape them into compassionate, empathetic, and kind individuals.

Empathy is a skill, much like anything else, and is something that our children develop with our help. In a world where people are becoming increasingly selfish, entitled, and even hostile- it’s important to ensure that we are setting our children up to be the best humans they can be. Not only that, but compassion is a necessary trait for your child to build lasting and meaningful connections with others.

Here are 9 things you can do to raise a compassionate kid.

1. Help your child understand people’s facial expressions.

In order for children to understand someone else’s perspective, it’s important to help them understand how others feel. You can do this by observing the facial expressions of others and explaining what they mean.

2. Don’t allow rudeness to pass.

When someone is being rude, and you observe it, make sure you point it out appropriately to your child. For example, if you go out to eat and the hostess is rude to you – when you’ve walked away, say, “That hostess must be having a bad day to have been so meaningful to us. What are your thoughts?” By pointing out unsavory behavior, you are setting the stage for your child to grow into a more compassionate person.

3. Acknowledge when they are kind.

When your child is kind, praise them. And when others are kind to you and your child, make sure your child sees this. For example, if a man helps you to take your groceries out to your car at the supermarket, say, “Thank you so much for your kind gesture. Isn’t that kind of him to help us?”

4. Model compassion.

There is a saying that goes something like, “Be the change you wish to see,” and when it comes to kids- this couldn’t be any more true. You can preach compassion all day long- but if you don’t actually treat others with compassion, your efforts will be in vain. If you want a compassionate kid- you are going to need to be compassionate, too.

5. Treat your kids with respect.

Kids deserve respect just like anyone else. The thing about respect is that unless you treat your kids with respect, they are not going to learn what respect is and how to treat others with respect. Much like the above note to model compassion, you also need to model respect, because the two go hand in hand.

6. Teach gratitude.

Gratitude is so important. “When individuals have more gratitude, they are more likely to be generous and helpful in the future,” says Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a Harvard-trained psychologist, and parenting expert. Her recommendation is to set up regular opportunities to model gratitude, like going around the dinner table and everyone saying what they are grateful for.

7. Work on your child’s feeling vocabulary.

As your child grows, make sure you constantly work to help them understand feelings and words. When you notice them sad, or others sad, emphasize that is sadness. Cover anger, sadness, happiness, joy, stress, surprise, excited, and so on and so forth. The more words you use to describe feelings, the more equipped your child will be to understand those emotions.

8. Raise your child to be aware.

It might seem tempting to paint the world in a rose-colored light, but to do so will rob your child of an opportunity to learn real compassion. While you don’t need to get into horrific or gory details about the goings on of the world, it is beneficial to shed light on the suffering of others. “When you expose children to the sufferings of others, they end up feeling grateful for what they have and proud of being able to help someone,” says Dr. Christine Carter.

9. Explain your actions.

If you want to raise a child with internalized kindness, make sure that you explain why you do certain things for others. “[Kids need to] understand why parents do what they do and what it means to them. Parents should say: ‘I feel good when I can contribute.’ ”explains Dale Atkins, co-author of The Kindness Advantage.