Teaching Your Children Kindness, Compassion and Empathy
Child psychologist explains the importance of parents leading by example
As has been shown in the Cook Children’s NICU, skin-to-skin contact helps preemies thrive and develop. However, that need for touch and interaction doesn’t end when we move past infancy or even toddlerhood.
The need for closeness, kindness and touch remains one of the most essential human needs that allow children to develop into thriving and independent human beings. Not only is healthy touch incredibly important, so are hearing encouraging and supportive words.
It starts at home with being respectful and polite to each other in terms of daily interactions and requests. If parents want their children to be respectful to them, the easiest way is to treat them with respect as well.
When kids see it and are treated with love and kindness, they pass it on to others also. Now nobody is perfect all the time and we all make mistakes and that is OK! Use those moments as opportunities to model being apologetic.
Let your child hear and see you say, “I’m sorry, I messed up” or “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, what can I do to help you feel better?” As a parent, if you are trying to correct a younger child who was aggressive with a sibling for example, have them check in with that sibling to see what they can do to make it right. Do they need to get them an ice pack, a water bottle or a popsicle maybe? The point is to try to get your child to put themselves in the shoes of the other person to create perspective and the start of creating empathy as well.
As kids get older, teaching compassion and empathy for others needs to continue to be a focus. Some options for doing that might be through family service projects such as volunteering in the community or local organizations.
Children need to realize that helping others can be accomplished through donating your time as well as resources such as food as well as money. For some families, it might be important to teach kids from a young age to set some money aside in a piggy bank that they would like to donate to a specific cause or organization that is important to them.
When kids show an interest in raising money for a cause through a lemonade stand or other fund raising effort, help them and encourage them! Most importantly, when kids are raised in an environment where they see their parents and other family members or friends working and volunteering to help others, it becomes second nature to them and they do not think twice about joining in the “school supply drive” or forgoing their birthday party presents and donating them to the “Peter Pan Club.”
Raising kind, empathetic kids begins with surrounding them with an environment of love and warmth. It’s not a place where everyone is always perfect, but it is a place that when people make mistakes, they acknowledge them, take responsibility for them and do what it takes to make things right.
About the author
Joy Crabtree is a licensed psychologist and clinic manager for Southlake and Northeast Clinic. Our psychiatry department helps children, ages 2-17, and their families who are experiencing behavioral, neurodevelopmental and emotional challenges. Our staff is specifically trained to work with young patients and our psychiatrists are board certified in child and/or adolescent psychiatry. Click to learn more about our program.
To access any of our services, please contact our Intake Department by calling 682-885-3917. To expedite your call, please have your child's date of birth and insurance information ready. For emergency situations, call 911.