By Essie Bester
All of us would like to see our children develop into individuals with integrity, compassion and character.
Experts say the secret is that we should show them that we understand them and really care because in that way they easily learn the lessons of love and character that we share with them.
Use teachable moments
Your disciplinary strategy is an important aid. Always use an opportunity to explain to your child why his behaviour is wrong and why you are punishing him.
Use stories to teach your child moral lessons. As you tell stories about your life and the world around you, you convey lessons of virtue to your child. Discussions about it are opportunities to reinforce the right values. Listen and react to your child’s stories about school and peers and help him to do the right thing.
Learn through experience
Parents who want to raise children who support others, who enjoy giving and empathising with others, should set the example and make it clear why compassion is a choice. Find opportunities to become involved in social and community actions that are accessible to your children.
Here are eight ways in which parents can be examples of compassion and teach their children to care for others:
- Encourage compassionate characteristics
Compassionate children are interested in other people, accept them as they are and are not judgmental. When your child is courteous towards an assistant in the grocery store, you must compliment it. This requires you to be friendly and compassionate towards your children while raising them.
If you want to raise a friendly child who cares for others, you must act in the same way. This means to be consistent in showing kind-heartedness (to be courteous towards workers and to help where necessary without showing off, etc.).
Your children must see that compassion and empathy in your daily dealings and choices impart a feeling of joy, satisfaction and peace to your family life. Also teach them that when they break this rule, there will be consequences that you will implement with fairness and dignity.
Explain at the right time why you are friendly and do good deeds for other people. It is important that your children understand why you do what you are doing and what it means to you.
Tell them that it makes you feel good if you can contribute to other people’s welfare. In this way you teach your child why it is important to help others and that is your priority as a family to help where you can.
- Do not hesitate to show gratefulness
It is important for you as parent to show gratefulness regularly. It helps children to realise that expressing appreciation regularly is a good way of having a happy life.
- If you can avoid it, do not reprimand your children in public
When your child acts wrongly you as parent must try to stay calm – especially in public, otherwise the important message you want to send your child could get lost in your anger.
Take your child aside instead of admonishing him in front of a lot of other children. Tell him that his behaviour is really disappointing you and that you do not want to talk about it now because you really need to think about what you want to say.
In this way you help yourself to reflect and you are also demonstrating this good characteristic to your child. Taking time to think about what you want to say to your child without humiliating him in front of others, is of critical importance.
Your children are going to make mistakes often. Show empathy, even when you are administering discipline. Do not instantly be ready to punish – even if you find out your child is pushing others around. First ask him why he thought it necessary to do so.
When your child feels that he is being heard and that he does not have to defend his actions, you can ask him if he could not have acted differently.
Research shows that four- to six-year-olds who read books about characters whose lives could be quite different than theirs, are more compassionate and open to other people’s experiences.
By reading with your children you help them to have empathy. They learn to understand that other people’s mental state, thoughts, persuasions and preferences may differ from their own, and this underlines empathy.
- Realise that it could take a long time
Acquiring compassion could take a long time. You, as parent, will have to repeat yourself often. It is a matter of being consistent in your actions, being precise in your parenthood and being aware of the fact that it could take many years before your lessons begin to bear fruit.