How to teach kindness and empathy

You may have noticed that in this post about how to raise empathetic kids,  I have some affiliate links and partnerships on this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

I tend to over-think things.

I’m one of those people who takes 45 minutes to write her grocery list, because she has three cookbooks spread all over her kitchen table, with tabs indicating which recipes have been earmarked for this week’s meals. It’s a task that could take 10 minutes (or, gasp, ZERO minutes, if I dared venture into Trader Joe’s without a list. But we all know what that would look like: Ten tubs of cookie butter and nothing to make for dinner.) but I choose to stretch it out, because it’s something that really matters to me. So I think about it.

And think about it some more.

Something I’ve been thinking about lately is the subtleties of raising socially-minded children. Because it can’t be just about saying to your kids, “God created everyone equally. Treat everyone the way you would like to be treated!” Because I think that pretty much starts to sound like white noise after a while.

So I did a little research (you guys know how much I love my research) and compiled a few ideas, some that our family already does and some that we plan to start. Like now.


the smallest girl in the smallest grade

Reading books together is probably already part of your daily routine because it’s a great way to interact with your kiddos without having to drink pretend tea or wear a Spiderman mask. We’ve added a few books into our “rotation” (I know you mamas know what “rotation” I’m talking about ) that weave social empowerment into their storyline. These are a few of our favorites, but there are SCADS more out there. SCADS!

The Last Stop on Market Street

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

We are different, We are the Same

It’s Okay to be Different

How to Raise Socially Empowered Kids

I’ve often fallen into the trap of telling my kids how to be nice to each other. This strategy has a success rate of sometimes. It often ends up in a power struggle where I eventually have to choose sides and everyone ends up feeling like a loser. Where I’ve found the most success though, is when I have had enough caffeine to remind my kids that they have the power to make a good choice. That they know how to find a compromise. And then I walk away.

The empowerment piece of taking responsibility for how your actions affect other people is really important. If we tell our kids how to be mountains, they will never learn to be mountain movers, on their own. This awesome T-shirt from our friends at Little Mami Shop is a favorite reminder of this.

 

Not hiding my kiddos from the inequalities many people in our country face is something that is near and dear to my heart. Age-appropriate translations of the truth are a must, but sugarcoating the realities of social, racial, religious and economic inequality will not do them any favors when it comes to growing up to be men of strong moral character. So if they have questions about why a family looks or acts differently than ours; we talk about it. If they wonder why someone doesn’t have a home; we talk about it. If they ask why some people aren’t allowed to fly on planes right now; we talk about it.

Raising a compassionate child is EASY! Follow these easy tips.

I have always loved this quote by Catherine Wallace: “Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”

So I try not to shush away their questions with “I’ll explain it when you’re older” or “You wouldn’t understand”, because they can begin by learning important, little lessons now, to prepare them for the important big lessons, when they’re big.

Because there will be big lessons, most likely even before they’re big. So we do the best we can. We teach, we model, we show them there should be equal respect for all life.

And then we step back and watch them move mountains.

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