How do we teach children appreciation and compassion? Helping children become empathetic is an ongoing process. The habits we create in childhood will last a lifetime. Are we not all a Work-in-Progress?
“Mom, can Tom play?” Tom stood in the door way, waiting.
James hurried to the cookie jar and helped himself to a handful.
Mom entered the kitchen. “Tom is welcome to stay until it’s time for soccer practice.”
She turned to James. “Would you like to offer Tom some cookies?”
“Oh, yeah,” said James. “I forgot.”
Tom got his cookies, and the boys hurried off to play.
A Teaching Moment
Small incidents like this occur in all our homes daily. Mom could just let this incident pass, but it was an important teaching moment for James. Just before bed that night when things were quiet, Mom talked with James about it.
“How do you think Tom felt when you grabbed some cookies and didn’t offer him any?”
James thought a minute. “Umm, not very good.”
“How would you feel if Tom did that to you at his house?”
James hung his head. “Mad that he had cookies, and I didn’t.”
Mom rubbed James’s back. “Good thinking. It’s no fun to watch someone have treats when you don’t get any.”
“What will you do differently next time?” Mom asked.
“Be sure to give some to Tom.”
• She handled this situation without attacking or blaming.
• She used open-ended questions (Ones that can’t be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’) to find out if James understood the concept of sharing.
• She praised James for his insight.
• She finished the conversation by asking James what he would do differently next time, helping him to set a behavioral goal to go with the sharing concept.
The BEST Way to Teach Kindness
Mom modeled the behavior she wanted James to learn. She treated him as she would have him treat others. I’m always amazed when I see a parent lecturing a child in a belittling way about love and kindness. What is the meta message Mom and Dad are giving?
Mom may need to have this conversation several times before James really internalizes it. No one paints a masterpiece or gives a musical concert without a lot of practice. Let’s give our children time to grow and become the best they can be—and that takes time and effort.
And while we’re teaching our kids, let’s evaluate our own lives. Is there room for improvement? Remind yourself to be kind when you remind your children. ###
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