You don’t get a considerate child just by bringing it into the world! If you want to have one, you’ll have to put in some work, and here’s advice for you aspiring parents of a future compassionate man or woman garnered by psychologists, experts and successful parents.
But let’s begin with an everyday episode from family life. A two-year-old boy isn’t in his brightest mood in the evening, and his acting up is threatening to turn into a full-scale storm. Meanwhile his sister, two years older than he, is watching the spectacle. Then she comes up with an assessment. She said that her brother was unhappy and wondered if they could do anything to make him feel better.
It isn’t just that the girl is caring – she displayed a kind of behavior that can make her life more satisfactory and filled with meaning. She was being empathic, that is, she tried to register, understand other person’s feelings, and think of a remedy to a distressing occurrence. Happily, her mother played along, and they both exchanged suggestions as to what can make the child come out of his tantrum. This sort of attitude creates the right atmosphere of attachment and deeper bonding within the family; it serves to strengthen people’s relationships. On a larger scale empathy provides for survival of the humanity as it depends on stable relationships within groups and communities.
Sociologists aver that empathy, the ability to put yourself into other people’s shoes, is the stepping stone for developing such caring emotions as compassion, gratitude, and even hope. Research shows that people are able to connect to others’ emotions starting from the age of one year and half! They are capable of making caring movements and gestures reacting to emotions of people close to them. When they turn 4, they begin to think about people’s feelings and compare them to the way they are feeling. Most of these responses are innate, but they could do with some conscious support and boosting from adults. Here are some behaviors that can help you bring up a truly caring child.
Children are quick to notice our rude response to mistakes on part of other people. Check your mechanical irritation before your children. If someone who is serving you has made a mistake, comment on it with remarks like “They must be feeling not quite well if they misunderstood me and did the wrong thing. Probably they are tired because they have had a busy day.”
Write about your gratitude
Just saying Thank you is all right, but if you want your child to develop consideration, the idea is to write a thank-you note in addition to oral thanking. Explain the feelings behind writing, like “They must have spent a lot of time looking for such a wonderful gift” or “I believe they will feel happy if they receive an email with your thanks.” If your child is still too young to write, do the nest part of the job for them and let them sign the note or draw something on it.
Accentuate the positive
So you enjoin your kids to think how what they say may affect other people’s feelings, and that’s fine – until the moment you take it out on your partner, and then the children get confusing messages about what attitude they should adopt. In this case your best course is to apologize to the partner in their presence. Explain your behavior to them afterwards showing them you know you acted too mean because you were upset over something and you are sorry you flew off the handle.
Expand the vocabulary of emotions
This is an excellent everyday topic for conversation – singling out people’s expressions and describing them as being sad, angry (or timid, depending on the vocabulary they are already in possession of). If the kid is fond of playing around with pictures, ask them to find emotionally laden pictures and tag them respectively. As the child grows older, more complex words come in, you can use body language as well. While reading together, pause to make and incite comments on the characters’ emotions.
Find reasons to give praise every day
When the family gets together over a meal, it’s the worst time to engage in an argument – instead, use it as an opportunity to voice appreciation and commendation. The great way to bond is to feel together at the dinner table, so introducing a habit of beginning the meal with a round of thanks from everybody present sounds quite a good thing – even if it’s only for something small and not very momentous, and the meal itself is not special, the connecting will be felt and sustained.
Accentuate the instances of kindness
Whenever your child shares some fruit with her or his friend, don’t let it pass unnoticed by you! Say that it was very kind of them to treat the friend to some of their goodies, the more so if it weren’t very many of them. Explain that the friend could have been feeling envious of their having a snack, and ask them how they think the friend was feeling when they offered him or her a treat?
But avoid overplaying it
Your kids are accustomed to saying Thank you to people? Great, but see that they don’t do it too emphatically, and it is consistent with the service rendered. First, it can sound funny; second, psychologists warn that when a child is growing expecting praise for every trifling thing, it leaves them focused on their achievements and prevent thoughts about other people’s feelings and attitudes.
Discuss the child’s mood with them
It’s nearing midday and the little one is winding down. It’s time for you to tell them they may be needing a shuteye; most people feel grouchy as they are getting tired. Suggest you go home and get into bed. Your child will see that you check on their condition in a caring and considerate way.
Develop emotional studies
Nowadays social and emotional skills is a subject to be found in many schools’ curriculum. It is believed that when children enter into an emotional discussion of a topic, they get involved deeper and consequently remember the information better. Social and emotional studies include sections like Feeling Words and tasks like, when discussing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, kids are asked to imagine his wife’s feelings on hearing the news and share how they would feel if they were a member of his family. Your particular school may not offer this kind of learning program, in this case you can address the PTA with a request to the school board to include it.
Do volunteer work
There is a harsh side to life, and your kids will come across it sooner or later. You may be afraid that such encounters will upset the young ones, but actually the experience can bring out the good in them. Watching other people suffer children can feel gratitude for the good things they have; their help makes them feel proud of themselves. Some families take their children to volunteer on a regular basis making it their responsibility. Reasonable donations may also be encouraged.
Be mindful of differences
Tolerance and understanding of different others is something that doesn’t spring up on their own, either. You would do well to find time to visit special schools for children with serious medical disabilities with your kid(s). If they have a chance to stay around children who move on wheelchairs, or have feeding tubes, or are blind, they begin to get used to feeling comfortable with different others around. Whereas if they suddenly come across such people at a later age, they won’t be able to handle the situation and will be at a loss how to behave. This kind of socializing should really be encouraged so it will come naturally when your kids have grown up.