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Compassion: are you overlooking this important quality while raising your child?

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While parents focus on education, there are a few qualities they should not forget to inculcate in their children

In just one day, I noticed a spectrum of behaviour in kids.

I was at a small get-together with a few of my friends and acquaintances. The occasion was the 30th wedding anniversary of someone close to me. Get-togethers bore me, and so I was roaming around avoiding people whom I knew would add to the boredom. Soon, I drifted over to the door.

There, I saw a curious gathering. A boy was defending a stray cat that another boy was trying to beat up. And then, there was a third boy who watched with disinterest. The first two were charged up, ready to pounce on one another. One was demanding that the other should hand over the kitten as he had found her first. The compassionate one was not ready to let go, fearing the worst for the poor cat.

Soon, their parents came and defused the situation. I knew the parents - well educated, polite, and very successful. The kids were also of around the same age. I wondered what was different then, in their upbringing.

The conversation

Later, I overheard a conversation between the two boys. Both were still fuming but were tamed by the proximity of their parents. The aggressive one thought that the kitten was his property because, well, finders- keepers. The kind one thought that it was not a good thing to harm anyone. The disinterested kid agreed with neither and said, "It is just a cat! Why even fight over it?"

Well, I felt something was amiss here in the way two of these three kids thought. There was a lack of compassion there, something that disturbed me.

Is compassion a sign of weakness?

Compassion is one of the most important qualities a child needs to grow with. However, a few misconstrue it as a sign of weakness. This is not true. Compassion is needed not just because it is 'necessary', but also because it will help your child in developing his emotional quotient. In fact, studies have shown that if your child cares, empathises with the problems of others, and take their responsibility, he is more likely to be happier and more successful in life.

How to raise compassionate children?

Even though children understand the qualities of kindness and compassion, they do require adults to help them develop these qualities. Here are 5 things you could do to help them be more compassionate.

1# Foster a loving relationship with your kids

Mums, we know that you love your children. However, they need to know that too! Children who end up receiving a lot of love and affection while growing up learn to care and respect others more. When you foster a relationship where your child gets your attention, gets to spend some quality time with you, he would be in a better position to reciprocate when it comes to caring for others.

Try to engage them in a meaningful conversation. Ask them about their day. This gets them thinking as well as they know that someone cares for them.

2# Set an example by being a strong role model

The personality of a child is shaped by what he sees people whom he respects are doing. So you may not realise it, but every action of yours is building up towards the development of your child's personality.

When he sees you being compassionate towards a cause, he would believe that it is the right thing to do. This will also help him build his ethics compass - soon he would be able to tell right from wrong.

Take him out for community work - cleaning drives or working with the disabled. This will show him that you do care about others and not just the people you are directly related to.

3# Encourage them to practice gratitude

Gratitude is a quality often overlooked when raising a child. I have seen many children command the household help around, without realising that it is a privilege to have such help.

It is important that children get ample opportunities to practise gratitude. Teaching them to say, "thank you" and meaning it is one of the most early-childhood life lessons. While you do that, also let them realise that even though they are thankful, others might not be thankful towards their efforts. That should not change their outlook towards that person or life in general.

4# Let the child develop a bigger sphere of concern

Children are often sensitive towards the concerns of the family. Every child has this sphere of concern when it comes to loved ones. However, it is important that this expands to include those who are not directly related to them.

Make them realise that it is important to care about what is happening in even parts of the world that are far away, as this is what keeps the world together. So when a child moves to his school from a different country, your child is more sensitive to the issues the new student may be facing.

Discuss concerns and engage your children in a conversation about the current news.

5# Help them master self-control and manage feelings in a better way

Abuse by children is often a result of unchanneled feelings. The feelings of neglect and being treated unfairly often come out as rage and tantrums. They end up hurting the ones without power, in this instance, the kitten.

To help your child manage his feelings, teach him to first understand them. Build up his feelings-vocabulary. Once he understands what he is feeling better, once he is able to put a name to it, he would automatically start feeling better about it. Encourage them to share those feelings with you. Help them deal with these issues in a better way.

Once your child masters self-control, he would not take his frustration out on others. This will help him build up a character.

Mums and dads, it is our responsibility as parents to give the world a better person in the form of your child. Teach him compassion and let him restore someone's faith in humanity.

Source and inspiration: Raising Caring Children, Harvard graduate school of education.

Also read: Raising an entrepreneurial child is easier than you think!

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