One thing is increasingly clear:
We live in a world of hurt.
Right now, as we prepare our kids for an exciting new school year, there are many children—some who will sit right next our kids in the classroom—who have spent this summer experiencing abuse, hunger, or isolation. There are children who haven’t made a single summer memory or felt the love of a dad for even a moment.
Many parents would say that the thing they want most for their children is to be safe this year—and that is totally understandable. But even more than that, I want my children to be compassionate—to recognize and care about the less fortunate, the fatherless, and the hurting. Uncaring, I believe, is worse than unsafe.
Maybe you feel the same way.
Here are 5 ways we can inspire compassion in our kids–
1. Celebrate kindness.
What if we celebrated kindness like we do sports victories or academic achievement? What if—even more than praising talent—we praise our children when they see needs and move to meet them? Statistically, most of our children will not grow up to be professional athletes or academics, but Lord-willing, they will grow up to be adults in a world that desperately needs compassionate leaders.
We can start by teaching them verses like—
“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.”
2. Monitor entertainment.
Studies done by the National Institute of Mental Health show that children tend to imitate the behavior they see on T.V. So allowing our kids to watch shows that promote unkindness, bullying, or insensitivity isn’t just harmless downtime—it’s counterproductive to compassion. We need to be aware of what our children are watching and how it’s affecting the way they treat others.
Need a helpful tool? Focus on the Family’s Plugged In is an entertainment guide full of the reviews you need to help you make wise personal and family-friendly decisions about movies, music, TV, games, and books.
3. Introduce role models.
While our kids may learn about popular culture from their friends at school, we can educate them at home about heroes and heroins of our choosing—people who have given their lives to serve our country or to fight for the less fortunate or to take the Gospel around the world. Local museums and public libraries provide limitless resources in this regard.
We should teach our children to want to be defenders who are unafraid to protect other people.
4. Get involved.
As families, let’s look for opportunities to help someone in need (and if at all possible, to do so without drawing attention to ourselves). Chances are, there are people in our churches, schools, and communities that could benefit from a meal, a helping hand, or an invitation into our home. Is anyone you know hosting a fundraiser? Does your community have a soup kitchen? There are many ways to get involved and show compassion. When we teach our kids to look for needs to meet, they gain the skills and confidence to do this on their own.
Need inspiration? Check out 5 Ways to Involve Your Family in Caring for Orphans
5. Be compassionate.
Compassion starts in the home. Logically, I can’t expect my children to be more compassionate than I am—the “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work when it comes to kindness. My children are watching and listening to me. What are they learning? Specifically, what are they learning when I interact with someone who looks, acts, or sounds different than I do? That’s the test, isn’t it? It’s easy for me to be kind to carbon copies of me. But what about people with whom I disagree spiritually, politically, or socially?
I want my kids to love everyone, and specifically to love people in need.
Basically, I want my kids to love like Jesus.