How to Raise Compassionate Kids?
What a brilliant question! And certainly one I have been asking myself since becoming a parent.
When my son was a toddler his blatant lack of compassion for his friends astounded me at times. Now that he’s 4-years-old, I notice moments of tender, sweet, kind compassion interspersed with moments of pig-headed selfishness.
Right now he’s playing with a friend and they are both being amazing to each other, speaking kindly, sharing nicely, offering, reasoning, congratulating each other for a job well done… yet I know this can change in an instant to outright WAR. And woe betide if one or both them are tired or hungry.
That’s why I adore this guest post by Ariel Harris, the third post in Ariel’s series on Conscious Living. Previously posted:
Conscious Eating: What is Healthy Eating for Kids?
Conscious Work-Life Balance: What is the Key to Success
How to Raise Compassionate Kids – Be Conscious Parents
Oh, don’t we all know this gem of a scenario? We are in the grocery store, turning a corner with our kids in tow, we bump smack into a little one racing away from his parent. Ahhh, did we hurt the child? Is the child okay? And where is the child’s parent?
All the while simultaneously scanning our kids to make sure no one has made a quick escape.
Ahh, yes, the joys of grocery shopping with our little bundles of joy.
But back to the runner, where is that parent? And what is our responsibility at this moment? What is it that we want to model to our kids?
And here we are. Even in a quick trip to the grocery store, we are still in that never-ending space of choices we make as conscious parents.
So what does that look like for you?
In choosing conscious parenthood we are taking on the crown of knowing each moment is an opportunity for each of us to thrive and transform both as parents and children.
In this space, we are giving true and learning opportunities for our beloved tykes to experience the range of what it means to live in full compassion.
HOW DO WE KNOW WHEN WE ARE CHOOSING COMPASSION?
It is always so easy to look around at other parents and wonder what are they thinking. But in reality, the question truly is where is our heart?
At each moment in our day of interactions, we have the option to see where love and compassion truly lives.
To me, that is the epitome of conscious parenting. It is a step that offers all family members the option to learn empathy and compassion.
So, back to the grocery store situation. One of our kids is excited by the incident. And decides that she too can just take off and make a run for it. Oh yes, another gray hair, just popped out.
We have options here, folks. What are we going to do? First off it’s a safety concern. So running after our adorable tyke is just going to have to happen.
Let’s hope we do it with grace, not looking like the harried parent. Try to find the humor here even if we have to dig deep.
(Did I tell you the story of my child taking off in the middle of a huge super duper grocery store, and as I began to run, I accidentally got my foot caught in my hippie skirt and it feel off in the middle of the store?? Yup, never went back to that shop!)
But here we go, back to the grocery store and the unfolding fun.
So we have now got our tyke in tow. And what are the first words that come out of our mouth? Watch it, it’s an opportunity here. If you can, take a breath.
Then hugging your child, ask why that might not have been the best action to take. And say, I am grateful you are here now.
Was that really what we wanted to do? Perhaps, not. At first. But as conscious parenting starts to find its way into our understanding, we see each opportunity as the possibility to use choice and transformation. Not fear or confrontation.
I think this is also a good place to drop in the thought about nonviolent communication. There has been lots of discussion on the use of nonviolent language. It is something really close to my heart. It is the conscious decision to view how we use our language and what words we choose.
If we could begin using nonviolent communication as children are learning to speak, their tone of empathy and compassion will be what shapes our future generations.
So what choices are we stepping into?
WHAT CHOICES ARE WE MAKING IN OUR DAILY MOMENTS?
The best part of parenting is that we are having this experience 24/7. (Or not, she says under her breath).
That means there is always an opportunity for choice. Do we take a moment to assess and breath?
The question is what our choice is, and are we willing to exercise it, no matter what the circumstance?
- Are we noticing how we are using our tone of voice and our language?
- Are we noticing if we are acting in ways that are compassionate or knee jerk reactions?
- Are we noticing that we are setting an example of calm and peaceful?
- Are we being supportive of our child’s state of mind?
- Are we teaching or being punitive?
- Are we ready to use hugs instead of anger?
- Are we validating our child?
I think these questions help us to determine our choices. Does that make sense to you? What are your strategies?
CREATING A SPACE THAT IS TRANSFORMATIVE FOR EACH OF US
I had this experience recently that truly brought conscious parenting into my heart.
I was watching my grandson as he started to escalate his anger. He is four-and-a-half. I watched as his face turned red, his fists clenched and he just started to scream.
And my daughter in her brilliance and love, just calmly said, “I understand you are angry right now. What do you need?”. She sat down at his eye level and listened to him really intently. Then mirrored back his needs. He seemed so reassured that she heard him.
I just loved watching this. I was watching compassion in live action. I could see and bear witness, that by simply remaining in this calm space and allowing him the ability to examine his needs, it did two things.
First, it diffused the ability for more drama, and then it allowed my precious grandson to figure out how he could handle his own anger, through simply understanding what he might need at that moment.
And what a way to learn how to access maturity and capability of handling our own feelings? Isn’t this an amazing life skill?
But the most awe inspiring realization was that not just my grandson was being in a state of transformation. So was I and so was his mother. Three generations just observed living transformation! I was truly in a state of gratitude and awe.
For my daughter had also given the most valuable of gifts. She had shown her son that he mattered. That he was heard. That he was seen. What more do any of us ever want?
I so appreciated that he was given the space to fully acknowledge his needs and anger. How many of us ever truly learned how to do this? How many of us, just stifle our anger, or let it come out in ways of passive aggressive resentment?
Not that we would ever act that way, grin.
I remember as a child if I ever ‘acted out’, it was always treated punitively. It taught me not to deal with anger. Do you recall being treated that way also?
Can we see how much healthier this approach is?
[ Wow… I just got goosebumps! Yes, yes, I see it. ]
I think the concept that we as parents can give this gift to our children is the most priceless acts of compassion and transformation. How do you see it?
In living Conscious Parenting, we are giving our children the ability to be a compassionate person not only to themselves, which is so vital, but also with any interaction they have.
We are giving them permission to deal with the whole spectrum of emotions without punity or lessening their self esteem.
Can you imagine if the entire world was loved, heard and validated, this way?
It could eradicate domestic violence, rage, violence against each other. And formulate a world where peace was the acceptable norm.
Wow, now that is a place I want to live. Join me?
What are you experiencing as you deal with conscious parenting? What are the hard parts, and the easy parts? What are your success stories? We really want to hear them here at inspiringmompreneurs.com.
In peace and gratitude,
Ariel Harris, Founder, Success-full-living.com living in heart-centric moments
About the Author
Hello, I am Ariel. After a long illness, I taught myself how to walk again. So here I am jumping into vibrancy. I am an artist, writer and believer in the positive, and a grandmother. My belief in the Yes We Can mindset, has opened the gates to living in possibility.
I live my life co-creating with the universe, rich in love, compassion, grace and consciousness. Knowing, that we are all connected and willing to be of service, is a source of great peace and joy.
I am the founder of two websites. Success-full-living.com and yeswecancreatewealth.com. I look forward to connecting with you.
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THANK YOU Ariel! Yes, I definitely want to live in a world where we are loved, heard and validated in this way.
Hard parts, keeping my cool when I’m busy with something else and not able to focus all my attention on my kids. Or when both want to do different things and I can’t work out how to keep them both happy. Or when any of us are hungry or tired. If basic needs aren’t met, things can go awry really quickly.
Easy parts, when we are all one hundred percent present as a family, away from all technology, calm, relaxed, knowing that our only job is to have fun together. Going for walks or going to the Beach are firm favourites. If it’s not outdoor weather we are also happy playing lego or doing puzzles or arts and crafts. I find when I allocate time for my children, allowing them to lead the play, we have the BEST time ever.
Moms, would love to hear your comments below.
I loved reading your article on teaching kids about compassion. We have such a huge responsibility in raising little people into amazing adults. It is an honor and a privilege that we so often take for granted.
My “babies” are now 21 and 19 years old. I loved every moment of raising them as I got to stay home with them.
Our lives are often so busy we don’t take the time to teach them the importance of such things as compassion.
I agree with you that if the world felt loved, important and listened to, we would have a completely different world.
always had a moto. Parenting is EASY, if you don’t take the time to teach these valuable life lessons. Parenting is HARD if you take the time to teach them.
Kudos to your daughter, and obviously you taught her well too.
Thanks for your awesome response, Liz. I will notify Ariel. Interesting motto.
Hello Liz, so lovely to hear from you.
How wonderful that you had that experience of being home with your kids. You are so right and said it so well. Parenting is the hardest job and it does not come with a manual! We are on our own in the way we decide and the choices we make, as to what is important to pay it forward with each child.
But what if teaching compassion is not a chore but just the way we interact with each other?
For each interaction if we take the time, it is indeed a lesson in compassion and loving. And that is how we can change our immediate world with the hope that exponentially it expands beyond our own borders.
Perhaps it all starts with our own inner connection to compassion? If I can be compassionate to my self, that will easily translate into all my interactions. Does that make sense? What do you think?
So we are back to the fine adage..it starts with me.
Thank you for the compliment about my daughter. I often say, in spite of me, grin, each of my three kids became amazing caring people.
The older I get, the more I realize how simple life is. Just live in love. That is the elixir of life.
Hope we chat again soon.
In peace and gratitude, ariel
Great post on how to raise compassionate kids. This is truly one of the greatest challenges we face as parents along with assisting in the creation of humans that can fully take care of themselves. I think at the end of the day you really hit the right point home – you have to be a compassionate parent model how to be that type of person. My 2 daughters are 15 and 18. The 15 year old is at that stage where everything is about her and it’s difficult to get her outside of this point of view. We have recently begun taking her on monthly trips to volunteer and help others to assist her in seeing there is a lot of world out there and people who can always use a friend.
Thanks for a great post, Mat A.
Hi Mat, Thanks for your awesome response. I will also notify Ariel. What a wonderful thing to do for your daughter. I have been meaning to do something similar with our children, particularly at Christmas time. I want to teach them that Christmas is a time of Giving and right now, all they are caught up in (especially our four-year-old), is that it’s a time of Receiving. So I want to take them somewhere where they can meet children who don’t have any toys to give some of their own toys away to them.
Thank you so much for stopping by. I agree with you, we do need to be the modeling tool for compassionate life. I think the hardest part for these lovely growing young girl- women hearts, is the balance between exploring themselves and their own needs versus learning how to be in community.
For young girls at this age, I think it is part of nature that they have this moment to experience themselves. It does seem very ego centric. But I think its mother nature’s way of building a foundation of healthy self.
When my daughters were that age, we did rituals to celebrate their coming into their woman-ness and heart, not just at the onset of puberty, but for ongoing life stages. And also suggested participation in youth groups of other young girl- women who were doing community service while growing their own sense of self.
And what you have probably experienced with your older daughter is that if before puberty they were loving people, they become loving people again after puberty and adolescence teen years. So it also just comes down to compassionate loving, even if it feels hard. I so get it. It seems to me you are being that loving guiding parent.
I look forward to hearing how your daughter is doing as she navigates the path to her beautiful self.